Hey guys, I want to introduce you to an interesting article about curcumin1 in sports. Curcumin is an active ingredient in the turmeric root and has attracted a lot of attention in medicine and science, for example, regarding pain relief in osteoarthritis (Daily et al., 2016). But is it also beneficial for athletes? What could be a daily amount of turmeric that can be safely consumed? The article “Curcumin in Sports – Useful or Not?” (translated from German) by Christine Hutterer, published in the “German Journal of Sports Medicine,” deals with the intake of curcumin by healthy athletes. Below, I summarize the article. Comments from me are marked with superscript numbers. Have fun reading!
General info on curcumin – The daily amount of turmeric
Curcumin, the main component of the turmeric root, has shown anti-inflammatory effects in laboratory tests, which could be comparable to anti-inflammatory drugs. There is also evidence that it could have an effect against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Studies have shown that curcumin could reduce inflammation in patients with joint diseases, obesity, or chronic metabolic diseases. The intake of even more significant amounts seems possible safely and with low side effects. However, the situation is different for athletes. Physically active people usually do not have the problem of long-term high systemic inflammation levels.2 Therefore, the question is whether and how athletes could benefit from curcumin!?
Inflammation and oxidative stress
A systematic review of studies on athletes showed that inflammation levels were lower when taking 180 – 500 mg of curcumin daily for three to seven days before or after a load than in placebo controls. However, other studies could not confirm these effects. Also interesting are the possible effects of curcumin on muscle pain, muscle damage, and muscle recovery. For example, it was observed that muscle pain after an intense eccentric load could be reduced by taking curcumin after the load. Taking curcumin before the load seems to have no benefits as a prevention. The study results are not always consistent and could possibly be influenced by factors such as gender.
Curcumin is also associated with the reduction of oxidative stress. It has been shown several times that curcumin can lower the concentration of reactive molecules, also known as reactive oxygen species (ROS). Reducing reactive oxygen species could be helpful, as ROS can damage cells and tissues. The intake of curcumin could, therefore, possibly reduce inflammation levels and oxidative stress and relieve muscle pain after intense physical activity a little faster than a placebo. However, whether this could improve performance or even interfere with the desired adaptations through training stimuli is unclear. Because ROS could also be necessary for the human body, ROS could act as molecular messengers in fundamental biological processes such as genome stability, gene activation, control of vasodilation, and proliferation. This means that ROS are not only harmful but can also play an essential role in maintaining health. intensive load; there is currently no reason for a permanent preventive intake.
Intake and tolerability – The daily amount of turmeric
Turmeric is a widely used spice in Indian and oriental cuisine. It is available in the supermarket as fresh root or as dried and ground powder. However, a small pinch of turmeric in the dinner is not enough to achieve noticeable effects. More significant amounts of the spice would have to be used. However, this can be problematic, as contamination with mineral oil and pesticides in ground turmeric powder, even in organic products, is very common. It is important to note that there is a recommended daily maximum amount for the intake of curcumin. The European Food Safety Authority gives an acceptable daily intake for curcumin of 3 mg/kg body weight/day. Studies on curcumin have generally used 180 – 1200 mg/day. This is also mostly only over a few days to months (up to 90 days). (If you want to try curcumin, try it with it from Fairvital.)
Curcumin is well tolerated in the mentioned amounts and periods without serious side effects. However, gastrointestinal complaints such as diarrhea, nausea, or abdominal pain may occur in some cases. The bioavailability of curcumin is relatively poor. This means that the substance is not well absorbed by the body. The water solubility of curcumin and its rapid metabolism via the liver and intestine seem to be decisive factors. It is often offered as a supplement with piperine to improve the bioavailability. Piperine is an alkaloid3 from black pepper and has been shown to improve the absorption of curcumin. However, it is essential to note that piperine can also affect the absorption of other drugs, and therefore, caution should be exercised.
If you are also interested in olive oil nutritional fact, read the article about it.
Comments on the daily amount of turmeric
1Comment by Olaf: Turmeric is a spice that has aroused much interest in the medical/scientific and culinary worlds. Turmeric is a rhizomatous perennial herbaceous (Curcuma longa) from the ginger family. The medical properties of turmeric, the source of curcumin, have been known for thousands of years; however, the ability to determine the exact mechanism of action and the bioactive components has only recently been investigated. Curcumin (1,7-bis(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-1,6-heptadiene-3,5-dione), also called diferuloylmethane, is the natural primary polyphenol that occurs in the rhizome of Curcuma longa and other Curcuma species (Hewlings & Kalman, 2017).
2Comment by Olaf: Nevertheless, specific inflammatory parameters, such as creatine kinase (CK), can be acutely increased by training (see Csala et al., 2021).
3Comment by Olaf: Alkaloids are chemical compounds that occur in plants and can have a medical effect, for example. Their structure contains nitrogen atoms (Matissek & Baltes, 2016).
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Original article: Hutterer, C. (2023). Curcumin im Sport – sinnvoll oder nicht? German Journal of Sports Medicine/Deutsche Zeitschrift für Sportmedizin, 74(2).
Csala, D., Kovács, B. M., Bali, P., Reha, G., & Pánics, G. (2021). The influence of external load variables on creatine kinase change during preseason training period. Physiology International, 108(3), 371-382.
Daily J. W., Yang M., Park S. (2016). Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. J Med Food. 19(8):717-29.
Hewlings, S. J., & Kalman, D. S. (2017). Curcumin: A review of its effects on human health. Foods, 6(10), 92.
Matissek, R., & Baltes, W. (2016). Lebensmittelchemie. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg.