Thursday, February 2, 2017

Curcumin, superfood or placebo?

There are many functional foods introduced as having amazing benefits on the body. Not surprisingly, most of these ideas do not survive a decade. It is hardly trustworthy a single food has a role of panacea.

Curcumin is one of the components which has been expected to be beneficial to human health. Many people express its effects from anti-aging to cure against neoplasm.

Dr. Axe: 10 Turmeric Benefits: Superior to Medications?

The author of the article above claims that curcumin has incredibly ten kinds of the effect each of which matches a particular medical drug. If it is true, we need not take medicines when suffering from pain, metabolic syndrome, depression, or even cancer. But is it true?

I read a paper referred as evidence in the article to prove the effect of curcumin on depression.

Phytotherapy Research: Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Unfortunately, this study written in this article is poorly qualified. The author claims that this is a randomized controlled trial, and concluded that curcumin had the effect on depressive symptoms as the same as a SSRI fluoxetine. But, the participants were not blinded. Also, statistical analysis did not show curcumin was not inferior to fluoxetine, but it was merely suggested that there was no statistical significance in effect between curcumin and fluoxetine. Indeed, some mild depression can be attenuated after some week observation even without any therapeutic intervention.

I found some other studies examining the effect of curcumin on depression. The article below is rather better. In this study, curcumin was compared to placebo in depressive patients using the double-blind method. As a result, the difference in reduction of depressive symptom was not statistically significant, while curcumin reduced anxiety in patients with more magnitude.

Journal of Affective Disorder: Efficacy of curcumin, and a saffron/curcumin combination for the treatment of major depression: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.

Recently, Gunda Georg, co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, said that curcumin research conducted so far were no other than a waste of time following the fact curcumin is an unstable, reactive, non-bioavailable compound. It is a shocking comment.

Quartz: Forget what you’ve heard: Turmeric seems to have zero medicinal properties

I do not believe curcumin has no effect on the body at all. But, it is likely that many of studies suggesting effects of curcumin are questionable. It is a tough task to find a valuable functional food.

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