Choosing the Best Curcumin Supplements
Choosing the best supplements can be something of a minefield. When it comes to curcumin supplements, nearly every brand makes similar lofty claims regarding their benefits and that their particular brand is the most bio-available of the lot.
Curcumin supplements derived from turmeric usually contain at least one other ingredient. The additional ingredient is purported to be be key in the way the active ingredients are absorbed into the system. We will take a detailed look at the benefits of each type of additional ingredient so that you can make a more informed choice. But first, let us take a look at the benefits of curcumin in general.
The Health Benefits of Curcumin
Curcumin is actually the active compound found in turmeric. Its therapeutic use has been recognized in various parts of the globe for some 4,000 years and recent scientific studies have started to lend their support to traditional use.
Curcumin has excellent anti-inflammatory properties that may help treat a range of conditions including bloating and dyspepsia, stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis, arthritis and heart disease.
It also has antiviral and antibacterial properties as well as anti-clotting abilities. Recent studies have even suggested it may be useful in the battle against cancer.
Curcumin is also a powerful antioxidant with a very high ORAC value. Because of this, it may help prevent or reverse free radical damage to the DNA and the cells.
With such incredible health potential, it is no wonder that the market in curcumin supplements is booming. With literally hundreds of brands to choose from and many using different additional ingredients, which is the best supplement for you?
BioPerine is used by manufacturers of curcumin powder and capsules as an ingredient to increase the absorption of curcumin into the system. The amount of the ingredient used by weight is usually under 1%.
While best known for its use with curcumin, the active ingredient found in Bioperine – piperine – is also known to increase the absorption of many other nutrients including vitamins A and C, selenium, CoQ10 and resveratrol.
BioPerine has undergone clinical trials in the U.S and elsewhere which have validated its efficacy to improve the bioavailability of curcumin and various other nutrients. In a study published back in 1998, the effects of BioPerine on the absorption rates of curcumin on both rats and humans was measured. Both groups exhibited a higher rate of absorption if BioPerine was utilized but the rate was significantly higher in the rats. (1)
Sabinsa’s BioPerine patent has now expired and there is nothing to prevent a competitor from copying the original composition. It is still recommended that you look for sabsina’s branded ingredient because of their reputation and track record of over 20 years as a manufacturer. There is no guarantee that a new manufacturer would produce an ingredient of the same quality.
BioPerine is used as an ingredient by a wide range of curcumin supplement manufacturers both by well known brands and cheaper store brands.
Like BioPerine, Longvida is a branded ingredient sold to manufacturers for use in curcumin supplements. Unlike BioPerine, Longvida actually contains curcumin. It is actually composed of 20% curcumin and 80% phospholipids. If you are not sure what a phospholipid is, it is a type of lipid or fat similar to wax and sterols. Longvida was patented in 2006 and is used by manufacturers to enhance the absorption of curcumin.
The Longvida website claims that it is up to 65 times better absorbed than curcumin on its own. This claim is probably based on an article published in 2010 which compared absorption rates for curcumin either together with phospholipids or without. In healthy adults, curcumin in the blood was almost undetectable while curcumin together with phospholipids showed a significantly higher curcumin level. (2)
According to studies, both Longvida and BioPerine can potentially increase the absorption of curcumin several thousand fold and they are both considered to be excellent options.
There is however evidence that Longvida can cross through the blood brain barrier leading some experts to suggest it is the better choice especially when it comes to brain conditions or injuries.
Like Longvida, theracurmin contains curcumin though at 10%, it is a lower level than the former. The remaining 90% is made up of other curcuminoids which are also naturally occurring in turmeric but are largely inert.
Theraceurmin was patented by a Japanese company in 2008 and is once again purported to help the body absorb curcumin. Like the previous ingredients, the manufacturers of the product claim that it the best absorbed curcumin supplement available.
Theracurmin is water soluble and also remains dissolved making it perfect for beverages. It has also proven to be stable when tested for light irradiation which means it is likely to be fine if stored in transparent bottles. It has also proven stable at heats of 95 and 120 degrees Celsius meaning it should hold up to pasteurization.
Unlike Longvida, there is no evidence that Theracurmin can cross the brain barrier but it may be a better product when it comes to bio-aavailability especially in higher doses. According to evidence, the level of Theracurmin absorbed increases as the dosage increases while similar evidence is not available for Longvida. A study conducted in 2010 showed that higher doses of Longvida actually resulted in reduced bioavailability. (3)
Meriva is composed of 20% curcumin and 80% phospholipids. Like the other supplementary ingredients mentioned, it is a branded ingredient which was patented in 2006. Meriva was developed by an Italian company who label it as Phytosome. It is used to increase the bio-availability of curcumin and also a range of other products including ginkgo biloba and green tea extracts.
According to the producers, the phospholipids used in the complex helps increase absorption of the curcumin. How well these phospholipids help with the bio-availability of the curcumin supplements is not entirely clear. According to the company, they help increase curcumin absorption by a factor of 29. While this figure sounds impressive, the study that the company is relying upon is a little more revealing.
According to the study, while total curcuminoid bio-availability was indeed increased by 29 fold, blood concentrations of curcumin itself were not as impressive. Indeed according to the researchers, phospholipids increased the absorption of the inert curcuminoids far more than curcumin itself. (4)
BCM-95 is derived totally from turmeric making it unique among its competitors which include additional ingredients. This is truly a 100% turmeric supplement which includes curcumin, curcuminoids and essential oils derived from turmeric.
Once again, the manufacturers claim that their formula enhances the absorption of curcumin and cite 14 clinical trials on their website. However, just 2 of those studies are bio-availability trials. The others examine the efficacy of BCM-95 to treat a range of specific ailments including cognitive function, mood, cancer and inflammatory response.
When it comes to bio-availability, studies have showed that BCM-95 lags some way behind Theracutmin and Longvida. (5) While it is nearly 7 times more bio-available than curcumin alone, it pales by comparison to several of the other options.
6) Black Pepper
Unlike the previous supplements, black pepper is not a proprietary ingredient but many lower end supplements make use of it because of the presence of piperine – an alkaloid which is found in black pepper. Piperine is well known to help the absorption of many different nutrients.
When it comes to improving the bio-availability of curcumin, piperine can help increase the absorption rate by as much as 2,000% compared with curcumin alone. (6) Recent studies have showed that piperine is less likely to be effective in larger doses. (7)
So Which is the Best Curcumin Supplement?
When it comes to the absorption of curcumin, Longvida and Theracurmin come out on top. The increased absorption allowed by piperine does not come near the levels achieved by smaller particles in the case of Theracurmin and the phospholipids in Longvida.
That is not to say that BioPerine is still a decent choice; it is versatile and since it lacks curcumin, you can vary the dose yourself. While it may be inferior in terms of bio-availability, it is still an attractive option in terms of cost meaning you can use more doses throughout the day.