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Curcumin, a natural polyphenol from the rhizome of turmeric, has been identified to have a plethora of attractive biologic and therapeutic properties, including its potential to inhibit neurodegeneration and improve neuroplasticity in the CNS. Curcumin has also been shown to directly interact with beta amyloid protein1 and inhibit amyloid pathology, a phenomenon originally recognized in association with Alzheimer dementia, but lately been shown to be found in pico-molar concentration even in healthy cognitively intact middle-aged individuals.2
However, the use of curcumin in general, and in brain-related applications in particular, has been limited by several factors, such as extremely low solubility, propensity to auto-oxidation at physiological pH, and most importantly, its robust biotransformation during absorption and first-pass metabolism. This biotransformation (aka conjugation) renders curcumin less bioactive, making the conjugated curcumin metabolites subject to rapid elimination. It also changes tissue distribution of curcumin by significantly lowering its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.3
Multiple curcumin delivery systems have been developed which offer incremental improvements in curcumin bioavailability, but one supplement technology stands out as the most successful effort to date: Solid Lipid Curcumin Particle ( SLCP LongVida®). Pharmacokinetic studies in human volunteers demonstrate that following oral administration of SLCP free/unmetabolized/unconjugated curcumin appears in circulation at clinically significant concentrations, while conventional curcumin renders near-undetectable levels of unmetabolized curcumin (while conjugated curcumin is present).4 This is an important technological breakthrough in curcumin bioavailability, especially in relationship with its applications for the brain.
For the first time now, SLCP has been used in a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial to examine its acute, chronic, and acute-on-chronic effect on cognition, mood, behavior and fatigue in healthy older population. The results were published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.5
Sixty healthy adults between the age of 60 and 85 were randomized to take 400 mg of SLCP (80 mg of curcumin) or placebo for up to 4 weeks. Various standardized cognitive and mood test panels were performed during the study. The results were as follows.  Just one hour after a single administration of SLCP, it acutely improved performance in tests related to sustained attention working memory, with statistically significant difference over placebo (Figure 1). After 4 weeks of supplementation, statistically significant improvements compared to placebo were achieved in the indicators of calmness, contentedness, and fatigue (both general and mental fatigue induced by psychological stress). Finally, acute-on-chronic cognitive tests revealed statistically significant improvement in alertness and contentedness. As widely accepted, p-value of 0.05 or less was considered statistically significant.
While dissecting the results of the trial, the effects of SLCP supplementation on the working memory were particularly encouraging. Age-related decline in working memory is a common finding in the aging population, but it is also strongly associated with depression and the overall quality of life. The significance of a dietary ingredient with the ability to improve working memory is hard to underestimate. The mechanism behind this curcumin phenomenon is not fully understood, although MAO inhibition and the resulting increase in serotonin and dopamine have been suggested.6 Among other findings, reduction of mental and general fatigue was another intriguing outcome.
Finally, from a previous clinical published in 2012 in the Nutrition Journal, we know that supplementation with SLCP (also for 4 weeks) significantly lowered plasma beta amyloid protein concentrations in healthy middle-aged individuals (ages 40-60).7
As research continues, we expect great things from SLCP as a “brain curcumin” in both prophylactic applications, and also as a part of therapeutic intervention protocols aimed at age-related dementia, depression, anxiety, and fatigue. Of course, in this short update, we have not even touched upon anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, cholesterol-lowering and other beneficial effects of curcumin, which is now recognized as a truly pleiotropic compound (meaning it enables not a single but numerous mechanisms of action and metabolic pathways).
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References:

  1. Kumaraswamy P, Sethuraman S, Krishnan UM. Mechanistic Insights of Curcumin Interactions with the Core-Recognition Motif of β-Amyloid Peptide. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2013/04/03 2013;61(13):3278-3285.
  2. Cosentino SA, Stern Y, Sokolov E, et al. Plasma beta-amyloid and cognitive decline. Arch Neurol. Dec 2010;67(12):1485-1490.
  3. Witkin JM, Leucke S, Thompson LK, et al. Further evaluation of the neuropharmacological determinants of the antidepressant-like effects of curcumin. CNS & neurological disorders drug targets. Jun 2013;12(4):498-505.
  4. Gota VS, Maru GB, Soni TG, Gandhi TR, Kochar N, Agarwal MG. Safety and pharmacokinetics of a solid lipid curcumin particle formulation in osteosarcoma patients and healthy volunteers. J Agric Food Chem. Feb 24 2010;58(4):2095-2099.
  5. Cox KH, Pipingas A, Scholey AB. Investigation of the effects of solid lipid curcumin on cognition and mood in a healthy older population. Journal of Psychopharmacology. October 2, 2014 2014.
  6. Kulkarni SK, Bhutani MK, Bishnoi M. Antidepressant activity of curcumin: involvement of serotonin and dopamine system. Psychopharmacology (Berl). Dec 2008;201(3):435-442.

DiSilvestro RA, Joseph E, Zhao S, Bomser J. Diverse effects of a low dose supplement of lipidated curcumin in healthy middle aged people. Nutr J. 2012;11:79.


*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any diseas