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Curcumin Holds the Key to Cure Cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease
Monday, 25 February, 2019, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Swamini Kulkarni
Turmeric, the golden spice of India, is truly a wonder component and filled with medicinal properties. While Indian ancestors were fully aware of its health benefits and thus, added it to daily consumption, Western science has now backed it up with a colossal amount of research. 

The most important component of turmeric – curcumin – has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and is a strong antioxidant. However, the chemical composition of curcumin in turmeric is about 3% by weight. Thus, using turmeric as just a spice in daily food is not sufficient for one’s body to experience its benefits. Moreover, curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. This has boosted the demand for packaged foods that supply curcumin. For instance, there are curcumin tablets that help fight with age-related cell-damaging effects of free radicals in the body. 

According to a research firm, Allied Market Research, the global curcumin market is projected to reach $104.2 million by 2025, with compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.9% during the period 2018–2025. More importantly, India is the largest manufacturer of turmeric as well as consumer of curcumin products. In fact, the firm states that India curcumin market was pegged at $1.76 million and expected to reach $2.95 million by 2024, with CAGR of 9% during the period 2017–2025. 

Major market players such as BioMax Life Sciences Ltd, BioThrive Sciences, Konark Herbals & Health Care, SV Agrofood, Now Foods and Synthite Industries Ltd have been introducing new products to help consumers increase intake of curcumin. Recently, NutriCommit, a company that provides over 30 billion probiotics supplements, has launched its new premium turmeric curcumin product to help improve consumer’s immune system, joint health and regulation of blood pressure.

Relation of cancer and curcumin
There are several research papers suggesting that curcumin has anticancer properties. However, most of the studies are taken in vitro. Scientists at the University of Illinois College of Engineering have discovered that curcumin could be considered as an effective candidate for killing cancer cells. 
Curcumin is not naturally soluble in water; however, the team has developed a sophisticated metallocyclic complex using platinum as it can enable curcumin’s solubility. Moreover, this synergy is found 100 times more effective to treat several cancer types including breast cancer cells and melanoma compared to when curcumin and platinum agents used individually. The study was published in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 

Dipanjan Pan, an associate professor of bioengineering at the University of Illinois College of Engineering, stated, “We knew that platinum has been used as a cancer therapeutic agent in research. We wanted to explore its properties with curcumin. Our results state that curcumin works totally with platinum and show synergistic effects to kill cancer cells.”

Curcumin helps improve mood and memory
According to a recently published story in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, curcumin holds the power to increase memory and reduce mood swings of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers observed the effects of curcumin on memory performance in patients with dementia and its impact on the microscopic plaques. 

The study was conducted as a double-blind and placebo-controlled that involved 40 adults between the age group of 50 and 90 and suffering from mild memory complaints. The study participants were randomly set to receive either 90 milligram of curcumin twice in a day or a placebo for about 18 months. Moreover, every participant received a standard cognitive assessment at the beginning of the study as well as after every six months, scientists monitored the curcumin levels in their blood. After 18 months, about 30 participants underwent PET scans to identify the levels of amyloid and tau in their brains.
It was observed that those who took curcumin experienced remarkable progress in their attention and memory abilities as compared to those who received placebo. In fact, the study proved that the participants showed signs of progress in their memory by 28% and mild improvements in mood over the period of 18 months. 

These studies proved that curcumin is more than just a spice that brings yellow colour to the food. In fact, our ancestors knew better than modern science and considered turmeric a vital component in daily meals. Now, science has backed up with numerous studies that prove curcumin might be just the thing we were looking for to cure chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s and even cancer. 

(The author holds a bachelor’s degree in instrumentation and control engineering from Pune University)
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