The health boosting activity of curcumin may be due to the
molecules ability to stabilise cell membranes and increase
the cells resistance to infection, suggests a new study.
The research, published in the prestigious Journal of the
American Chemical Society, may help scientists understand
how curcumin works inside the body.
Ayyalusamy Ramamoorthy and colleagues at the University of
Michigan used solid-state NMR spectroscopy to show that curcumin
physically alters the cell membrane at an atomic level.
History of Use
Curcumin, the natural pigment that gives the spice turmeric
its yellow colour, has increasingly come under the scientific
spotlight in recent years, with studies investigating its
potential benefits for reducing cholesterol levels, improving
cardiovascular health, reducing the risk of Alzheimer's, and
potential protection against cancer.
Turmeric has a long history of use in folk medicine for the
treatment of wounds, infections, and other health problems,
said the Michigan researchers.
Some experts recommend however that consumers wishing to
make use of curcumin's properties consume it in supplement
form rather than eating more curries, which tend to be rather
high in fat in their Western form.
According to Ramamoorthy, curcumin can induce a negative
curvature of the membrane, which would explain the potential
anti-cancer activity of the compound, since other studies
have shown that such changes may increase the activity of
proteins such as tBid, which play an important role in apoptosis,
or programmed cell death.
Using solid-state NMR spectroscopy, the Ramamoorthy and his
co-workers report that molecules of curcumin insert themselves
into cell membranes and make the membranes more stable and
orderly. This makes the cells more resistant to infection
by disease-causing microbes, they added.
The study also revealed that curcumin exerts this strong
effect on the membrane structure at low concentrations.
This research was supported by funds from the NIH.
Over the last couple of years, curcumin has been linked to
a range of health benefits, including potential protection
against prostate cancer (Clinical Cancer Research, 2008:14
- using Sabinsa's Curcumin C3 Complex), Alzheimers (Journal
of Alzheimer's Disease, 2006, Vol. 10, pp. 1-7; American Journal
of Epidemiology, 2006, Vol. 164, pp. 898-906), protection
against heart failure (Journal of Clinical Investigation,
doi: 10.1172/JCI32865); diabetes (Molecular Nutrition &
Food Research, 2008, doi: 10.1002/mnfr.200700184); and arthritis
(Arthritis & Rheumatism, 2006, Vol. 54, pp. 3452-3464).
Source: Journal of the American Chemical Society
2009, Volume 131, Number 12, Pages 4490-4498, doi: 10.1021/ja809217u
Determining the Effects of Lipophilic Drugs on Membrane
Structure by Solid-State NMR Spectroscopy: The Case of the
Authors: J. Barry, M. Fritz, J.R. Brender, P.E.S. Smith, D.-K.
Lee, A. Ramamoorthy