Curcumin: The Longevity Spice
Curcumin is the active anti-aging yellow pigment in the spice turmeric. Most longevity experts concur that curcumin holds tremendous potential for anti-aging with numerous studies showing curcumin as a powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and neuroprotective agent. Furthermore, curcumin suppresses the aging effects of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), caused by high blood sugar, by blocking the receptor site gene expression for AGEs at the cellular level.(10) Additional studies with animals have demonstrated that curcumin can actually promote longevity while improving health and also induce the formation of new brain cells in the hippocampus of the brain in adults (termed adult neurogenesis).
Extends Lifespan and Improves Health (1)
• Extending Lifespan. Curcumin has been shown to beneficially modulate the expression of aging associated genes. In studies with drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly), curcumin extended the life span of two different strains of the fly.
Curcumin Promotes Longevity:
(1) Enhances Autophagy. Curcumin enhances a cellular process known as autophagy (5).
Autophagy is the controlled cellular maintenance by which the cell breaks down older
components, removes cellular damage and debris (such as lipofuscin) and keeps the
cellular machinery operating efficiently. Lifespan and autophagy are strongly
associated with one another. Calorie restriction, resveratrol and curcumin are known
to improve autophagy and increase lifespan. In fact, all life extension mechanisms
depend upon the importance of autophagy for clearing cellular damage.(6)
(2) Increases Super Oxide Dismutase (SOD) Activity. SOD is a key antioxidant enzyme in
the body. Supplementation of the diet of fruit flies with curcumin resulted in significant
increased SOD gene expression and life spans in both the male and female fly. (13)
(3) Maintains Protein Homeostasis. Aging cellular protein results in protein aggregation and
insolubility which accelerates the onset of disease. Curcumin supports healthy protein
homeostasis and has been shown in invertebrate studies to extend longevity and delay
neurodegenerative diseases. (20)
• Health Improvement. Further observations in addition to extending the life span, was an improvement in overall health, including locomotion and significant reductions in oxidative stress.• Perhaps most importantly, the study demonstrated the powerful anti-aging potential of curcumin in higher level animals (including mammals).
Cardio Protective (Myocardial Infarction)
• Promotes Cardiac Repair. Experimentally induced myocardial infraction in lab animals (equivalent to a heart attack) normally result in significant damage and loss of cardiac function. However, when curcumin was administered subsequent to the ischemia, curcumin improved cardiac repair and preserved cardiac function.(15)
(Curcumin Inhibits HMGB1 Release - a Significant Inflammatory Factor in Vascular Inflammation & Atherosclerosis)
• HMGB1 - Critical Factor in Vascular Inflammation and Lesion Formation. In response to experimentally induced vascular injury, HMGB1 (an endogenous protein released from dying cells and from immune cell response), was found to play a significant role in the vascular inflammatory response and lesion formation in the injured arteries. Researchers indicated that blocking HMGB1 may play an important role in the treatment of atherosclerosis.(22). Curcumin has been found to inhibit the release of HMGB1 by lipopolysaccharides (LPS), and by downregulating the HMGB1 receptor sites on the vascular endothelial cells. Therefore, curcumin may play an important role in the treatment of vascular inflammatory diseases.(23).
Obesity: Reduction and Affects on Low Grade Inflammation
• Inhibits Adipocytes (Fat Cells). Research indicates that curcumin is an inihibitor of adipocyte (fat cell) differentiation. Through this mechanism, curcumin is able to reduce fat accumulation, thereby promoting a reversal of obesity.(21)
• Inhibits Low Grade Inflammation from Adipocytes. Adipose tissue is signifcant source of inflammation in the body, leading to a host of health issues, including cardiovascular disease. Curcumin supresses the chronic inflammation from adipose tissues in several ways. First, curcumin directly inhibits the generation of inflammatory agents from the adipose tissue. Next, curcumin induces the secretion of adiponectin from the adipocytes, which is a potent anti-inflammatory substance. The net effect of curcumin in to significantly mitigate the adverse health impact of obesity and associated chronic inflammation.(21)
Diabetes (Type 2) Prevention | Mitigation of Complications
• Inhibits Progression of Prediabetes to Type 2 Diabetes. In a double-blind study involving 240 prediabetic subjects, test subjects randomly received either curcumin (240 mg of curcuminoids twice per day) or a placebo during the 9 month trial period. After 9 months, 16.4% of the placebo group had developed diabetes, whereas NONE OF THE CURCUMIN subjects had diabetes.The curcumin group showed improved functioning of the Beta-cells of the pancreas, lower insulin resistance and higher levels of adiponectin. The increased levels of adiponectin helped to lower inflammation, which is a cause of degradation of the pancreas Beta-cells.(17)
• Mitigates Effects and Complications of Diabetes. Oxidative stress and inflammation are the main contributors of the damaging effects associated with diabetes. Acting as a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory, curcumin is considered suitable for countering the detrimental effects and progression of diabetes.(19)
Neurogenesis: The proliferation of new brain cells in the Hippocampus and Improves Cognition
• New Brain Cell Formation in Hippocampus. Administration of curcumin to adult mice resulted in the stimulation of neural progenitor cells in the hippocampus of the brain. Authors of the studies conclude that based on the observed activity of curcumin in the brain, curcumin may be effective as a “neural plasticity and repair” agent. (2) The term “plasticity” refers to enhancing the ability of the brain to make positive adaptations, thereby improving cognitive functioning.• Improvement of brain function and cognition is perhaps the most significant quality of life issue that will be encountered as the population ages. Furthermore, prolonged administration of curcumin to aged rats showed improvement in overall cognition, including both spatial and non-spatial memory. (11)
• Regeneration of Neurons - Stimulating Neurite Outgrowth (Neural & Synaptic Plasticity). Neurites are the projections that extend from the body of a brain cell (neuron). Classified as either an axon or a dendrite, neurites and are vital for the transmission and reception of electrical signals for other neurons. An axon (neurite) transmits signals to another neuron via a synpase, while a dendrite (neurite) receive signals. In lab studies, curcumin has been shown to enhance the outgrowth of neurites from neurons.(8) Curcumin promotes neurite outgrowth through increasing levels of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). An important function of BDNF is to improve synaptic function (specifically known as synaptic plasticity).(9) Therefore, curcumin may play an important role in revitalizing the connections in the brain and promoting better brain function.
Neuroprotective Against Cognitive and Neurodegenerative Diseases
• Activation of Protective Genes in Brain Cells. Curcumin strongly induces activation of genes through the Nrf2/Antioxidant Responsive Element (ARE) Pathway. When activated in the brain, these genes STRONGLY PROTECT astrocytes and neurons in the brain against inflammation, damage by oxidative stress and death of the cells.(4)
• Preserves Neuron Function Against Amyloid Beta Damage. In Alzheimer's pateints, the build-up of amyloid beta induces neuronal damage, and is considered a significant factor in the progression of the disease. Curcumin has a protective effect on neurons from amyloid beta damage by acting as a powerful free radical scavenger and an inhibitor of amyloid beta aggregation and amyloid beta toxicity.(12) Curcumin inhibits amyloid beta toxicity by interacting with amyloid beta residues without binding to them.(16) Furthermore, curcumin binds to aluminum ion, inhibiting its action as an amyloid "chaperone". As a chaperone, aluminum enhances the pathological development of amyloid aggregation.(14)
• Protects Against Progressive Neuronal Degeneration in Neurodegenerative Disease. Using a Parkinsons Disease model in laboratory rats, curcumin was shown to "shield progressive neuronal degeneration from increased oxidative attack" attributed to its powerful antioxidant capabilities. Authors of the study concluded that curcumin may have potential in the treatment of oxidative stress induced neurodegenerative diseases.(18)
Adaptogenic for Conditions of Chronic Stress (and increases in stress hormones)
• Chronic stress, extremely prevalent in modern society, is associated with significant negative alterations in the body, including: Increases levels of corticosterone (known as the “stress hormone”) which can accelerate aging, result in muscle wasting and damage the brain, severe memory deficits, increases in blood sugar and increased levels of oxidative stress. High levels of corticosterones also results in depression and sifgnificantly reduces levels of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). BDNF supports neuron survival and promotes the growth and differentiation of new neurons and synpases. Curucmin has been shown to act as an anti-depressant, reversing the effects of corticosterone induced depression, and increases BDNF expression in the hippocampus and frontal cortex.(7)
In experimental studies of chronic stress using mice, pretreatment with curcumin significantly attenuated chronic stress associated biochemical changes, including decreasing the levels of corticosterone secretion and reversing stress-related memory deficits.(3)
1. Lee KS, et al. Curcumin extends life span, improves health span, and modulates the expression of age-associated aging genes in Drosophila melanogaster. Rejuvenation Res. 2010 Oct;13(5):561-70.
2. Kim SJ, et al. Curcumin stimulates proliferation of embryonic neural progenitor cells and neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus. J Biol Chem. 2008 May 23;283(21):14497-505.
3. Bhatia N, et al. Adaptogenic potential of curcumin in experimental chronic stress and chronic unpredictable stress-induced memory deficits and alterations in functional homeostasis. J Nat Med. 2011 Apr 11.
4. Scapagnini G, et al. Modulation of Nrf2/ARE Pathway by Food Polyphenols: A Nutritional Neuroprotective Strategy for Cognitive and Neurodegenerative Disorders. Mol Neurobiol. 2011 Apr 19.
5. Petrovski G, et al. Does autophagy take a front seat in lifespan extension? J Cell Mol Med. 2010 Nov;14(11):2543-51.
6. Madeo F, et al. Can autophagy promote longevity? Nat Cell Biol. 2010 Sep;12(9):842-6.
7. Huang Z, et al. Curcumin reverses corticosterone-induced depressive-like behavior and decrease in brain BDNF levels in rats. Neurosci Lett. 2011 Apr 15;493(3):145-8.
8. Liao KK, et al. Curcuminoids Promote Neurite Outgrowth in PC12 Cells through MAPK/ERK- and PKC-Dependent Pathways. J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Dec 6.
9. Gomez-Pinilla F. Collaborative effects of diet and exercise on cognitive enhancement. Nutr Health. 2011;20(3-4):165-9.
10. Lin J, et al. Curcumin inhibits advanced glycation end-products (AGEs)-induced gene expression of receptor for AGEs (RAGE) in hepatic stellate cells in vitro by elevating PPARγ activity and attenuating oxidative stress. Br J Pharmacol. 2012 Feb 21.
11. Dong S, et al. Curcumin enhances neurogenesis and cognition in aged rats: implications for transcriptional interactions related to growth and synaptic plasticity. PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e31211.
12. Huang HC, et al. Protective Effects of Curcumin on Amyloid-β-Induced Neuronal Oxidative Damage. Neurochem Res. 2012 Apr 4.
13. Shen LR, et al. Curcumin-supplemented diets increase superoxide dismutase activity and mean lifespan in Drosophila. Age (Dordr). 2012 Jun 1.
14. Jiang T, et al. Inhibitory effect of curcumin on the Al(III)-induced Aβ(42) aggregation and neurotoxicity in vitro. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 Aug;1822(8):1207-15.
15. Wang NP, et al. Curcumin promotes cardiac repair and ameliorates cardiac dysfunction following myocardial infarction. Br J Pharmacol. 2012 Jul 24.
16. Zhao LN, et al. The Toxicity of Amyloid β Oligomers. Int J Mol Sci. 2012;13(6):7303-27.
17. Chuengsamarn S, et al. Curcumin Extract for Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2012 Jul 6.
18. Agrawal SS, et al. Neurodegenerative Shielding by Curcumin and Its Derivatives on Brain Lesions Induced by 6-OHDA Model of Parkinson's Disease in Albino Wistar Rats. Cardiovasc Psychiatry Neurol. 2012;2012:942981.
19. Meng, et al. Antioxidant and antiinflammatory activities of curcumin on diabetes mellitus and its complications. Curr Pharm Des. 2012 Oct 23.
20. Monrov A. et al. Curcumin and neurodegenerative diseases. Biofactors. 2013 Jan 10. doi: 10.1002/biof.1063.
21. Bradford PG. Curcumin and Obesity. Biofactors. 2013 Jan 22.
22. Herata Y,et al. HMGB1 plays a critical role in vascular inflammation and lesion formation via toll-like receptor 9. Atherosclerosis. 2013 Dec;231(2):227-33. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2013.09.010.
23. Kim DC, et al. Vascular anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin on HMGB1-mediated responses in vitro. Inflamm Res. 2011 Dec;60(12):1161-8. doi: