Turmeric extract may boost blood flow to the brain: RCT

By Stephen Daniells contact

- Last updated on GMT

© microgen / Getty Images
© microgen / Getty Images

Related tags: Turmeric, Curcumin, Brain health, healthy aging

Supplements of a turmeric extract may increase cerebral oxygenation linked to better blood flow to the brain, says a new study from Brazil.

Results of the small double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over with older men and women indicated that a single high dose of curcumin led to significantly greater magnitudes of cerebral oxygenated hemoglobin (O2Hb) and total hemoglobin (tHb), compared to placebo.

“These results indicate that acute supplementation with turmeric/curcumin can contribute to acutely improving cerebral hemodynamics during brain activation by exercise in older participants,” ​wrote scientists from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition.

The authors cautioned about extrapolating the findings to specific health benefits, noting that the “functional impact of the magnitude of the changes is unknown. Thus, making strong recommendations about the ingestion of turmeric/curcumin to improve brain perfusion warrants further investigations.”

Hot category

The study adds to the ever-growing body of evidence supporting the potential health benefits of turmeric/ curcumin.

The category has enjoyed meteoric growth over the last decade. According to the 2020 Herb Market Report​ published by the American Botanical Council (HerbalGram​ 131), turmeric is the number three selling herb in the natural channel, with $41.5 million in sales. It is number four in the mass channel (MULO) with $96.97 million in sales.

Consumer awareness and understanding of the botanical’s potential benefits are now very high, with data from the ITC Insights 2020 Consumer Survey showing that 86% of supplement consumers are familiar with curcumin/turmeric.

Study details

The Rio-based scientists recruited 12 older men and women (mean age of 70) to participate in their study. The participants were randomly assigned to receive either 10 grams of the Curcumin C3 complex Curcuma longa​ L. extract or placebo

“We chose 10 g of turmeric extract since curcumin presents low bioavailability after ingestion, and previous evidence has shown that a lower dosage of curcumin (approximately 5 g) positively affects vascular function,” ​they explained.

Two hours after supplementation, the researchers took some readings and then subjected the older men and women to a hand grip exercise and cerebral analysis. This was followed by a one-week “washout” period before crossing over to the other group.

The data indicated that the magnitude of changes in cerebral oxygenation were 42% higher after curcumin supplementation, compared to placebo. In addition, changes in blood volume (measured as total hemoglobin (tHb)) were 54% higher following the curcumin dose, compared to placebo.

On the other hand, no significant differences between the groups were detected for heart rate or blood pressure.

“This study demonstrated that acute supplementation with 10 g of turmeric root extract significantly increased cerebral oxygenation and blood volume during handgrip exercise with no changes in systolic and diastolic blood pressure and heart rate in 65–75 years old males and females,”​ they concluded.

Source: International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1080/09637486.2021.1972411
“Turmeric root extract supplementation improves pre-frontal cortex oxygenation and blood volume in older males and females: a randomised cross-over, placebo-controlled study”
Authors: C. Rezende et al.