Turmeric’s health benefits have been celebrated for many years. As mentioned, curcumin is the chemical compound behind all its medicinal properties. It’s a natural antioxidant, and the fact that it has anti-inflammatory properties, means it’s useful for slowing the ageing process. It also has a protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease.
Despite all these claims, clinical trials are telling a different story. In order to get the health benefits associated with curcumin, you need to consume LOTS of it. Studies are showing that participants are not necessarily getting any benefits from simply consuming turmeric. Why is this? Well, the problem with curcumin is that it’s not easily absorbed by the body. Not only is it quite unstable, but it doesn’t dissolve easily in water. Which means your body would have difficulty to use it. In fact, according to research, most of the compound goes right through our bodies completely undigested!
The reason why curcumin absorption is so troublesome, lies in its chemical structure. So by manipulating its chemical structure (or attaching it to another chemical transport), curcumin would be better absorbed by the body. Researchers have been studying this effect for several years now, and by several different adaptations they’ve been able to repair stroke damage in rats. Another team of researchers at a university at Illinois, showed that a complex curcumin structure was effective in treating various cancers.
Besides showing promising results in the treatment of cancer, curcumin is even useful for memory problems. A research team from California tested a supplement called theracurmin on a group of 40 participants. The anti–inflammatory effect of curcumin had a protective effect on the brain, resulting in a significant memory boost.
So what can you do to get at least some of the health benefits? Well, consuming turmeric together with black pepper increases the absorption of curcumin by about 2%. This is probably why most curcumin supplements contains piperine (the active ingredient of black pepper). The curcumin compound is fat soluble, which means you’d get more health benefits of turmeric when adding it to a fatty meal.