Due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions, Curcumin has long promised stunningly powerful effects against all sorts of maladies; however, popular messaging about curcumin is often imprecise at best or misleading at worst, contributing to a sense of illegitimacy about curcumin’s potential benefits. This is the first in a series of blog posts to address misconceptions by showing the research behind our use of curcumin, explaining the significance of HALO’s formula for curcumin’s operation, and exploring how curcumin works in the body.
In this installment, Dr. Bucci starts at the start, summarizing some of the research that has driven curcumin’s popularity and that proves it isn’t simply a fad or folktale. This research demonstrates that, when administered correctly, curcumin can actually facilitate the body’s natural inflammation and repair processes, aiding recovery between training sessions and – maybe more importantly – helping address the chronic connective-tissue issues that often accompany endurance training.
Editor’s note: As always when writing about HALO, we may use the words “curcumin” and “curcuminoids” interchangeably. The latter is more accurate (HALO’s curcumin content actually comprises three different curcuminoid compounds), but referring simply to “curcumin” is often, well, simpler.
DR. BUCCI’S RESEARCH REVIEW
Research on the effects of supplemental curcumin on muscle soreness after exercise has exploded in the past few years, offering a wealth of data and interpretation to support using curcumin or curcuminoids before, during, and after aerobic and anaerobic exercise leads to less muscle soreness, less loss of muscular strength or performance, faster recovery, and often reduced biomarkers of muscle damage, systemic inflammation, and oxidation in normal, healthy persons.
The research reviewed here is divided into two categories: endurance exercise, which is directly applicable to First Endurance, and resistance exercise, which is less directly applicable but does connect to the same root causes – muscle soreness, exercise-induced inflammation, and connective-tissue injuries and conditions.
A majority of human studies found significant reductions in muscle soreness (peak pain and pain duration) after damaging exercise, an anti-inflammatory effect after damaging exercise, antioxidant effects after damaging exercise, and signaling effects that led to faster recovery from damaging exercise.
The conclusion is that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities of curcuminoids streamline the inflammation/recovery process after exercise while also positively impacting chronic issues in joints, tendons, and muscles that commonly plague endurance athletes. Some of that research is excerpted and summarized here in a brief review.
- Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions in chronically exercising cyclists when taken for an extended time (Chilelli 2016).
- Differences in nine inflammatory proteins and 39 mRNA expressions that signal improved exercise recovery (Tanner 2020a).
- Demonstrating inflammatory protein and mRNA changes conducive to accelerated muscle recovery (Tanner 2020b).
- Reducing inflammatory accelerators immediately after and one hour after exercise.
- Reduced heart rate, inflammation responses, body temperature, and heatstroke risk while training in higher temperatures than an athlete is acclimated to (Szymanski 2018).
- Reduced GI barrier damage and facilitated uptake of carbs, electrolytes and water during long-term exercise (Szymanski 2018).
- Increased total antioxidant capacity before and immediately after exercise. Minor improvements in decay and destruction signals (Roohi 2017).
- Significantly reduced muscle soreness and muscle damage markers. Increased VO2 max as a measure of recovery (Amalraj 2020).
- Reduced muscle protein breakdown after exercise and during rest afterwards (Cardaci 2020).
- Significantly reduced muscle soreness and serum biomarkers of muscle damage and systemic inflammation. Reduced muscular injury by half (Drobnic 2014).
- Improved measures of recovery and reduced levels of muscle destruction and inflammatory signals (Jager 2017, 2019; Oliver 2017).
RESISTANCE EXERCISE & HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING LITERATURE REVIEW
Although resistance training (weightlifting), high-intensity interval training, and other short-term, exhaustive exercises are not the same kind of exercise as long-term endurance, they’re undeniably intense and fatiguing and can lead to the same issues facing endurance athletes. Since the biological mechanisms for responses are similar, effects from shorter-term, intense exercises are also applicable to intense, long-term endurance exercise.
I won’t detail them here, but 16 relevant studies with curcuminoids found varying degrees of reducing oxidative damage, normal exercise-induced anti-inflammatory biomarkers, and muscle/joint soreness. These mostly positive results were seen in several types of agony-inducing exercise, from single muscle-joint combo (biceps flexes) to whole body motion (drop jumps).
OTHER REVIEWS STATISTICALLY SUPPORT CURCUMIN BENEFITS
The above is my own summary of research; however, as I noted earlier, studies of curcumin have exploded in the past few decades. Unsurprisingly, research reviews of those studies have also seen a corresponding – albeit necessarily delayed – increase.
Seven other recent meta-analyses echo my findings after reviewing subsets of the studies presented herein (Campbell 2021, Doma 2020; Fang 2021; Fernandez-Lazaro 2020; McFarlin 2019; Hewlings 2017; Yoon 2020). Some of these analyses also included results from in vitro and animal studies.
The studies shown above only focused on human studies, but the in vitro and animal studies further support human study findings, adding ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ to explain the evident ‘whats.’ Here are excerpts from these analyses and other scholarly reviews.
“Various curcumin-based interventions have improved self-perceived measures of pain and tenderness, reduced evidence of muscle damage, ameliorated inflammatory markers, increased markers of antioxidant capacity, diminished markers of oxidative stress, reduced markers of AGEs, and attenuated loss in mean power of single-leg sprints.”
“Accordingly, selected root plants minimised the level of several biomarkers of muscle damage, inflammation and muscle soreness during periods of exercise-induced muscle damage.”
“The current evidence revealed a [sic] efficacy of curcumin in reducing CK serum levels and muscle soreness index among adults. Therefore, curcumin may be known as a priority EIMD recovery agent in interventions.”
“In summary, the administration of curcumin at a dose between 150-1500 mg/day before and during exercise, and up until 72 h’ post-exercise, improved performance by reducing EIMD and modulating the inflammation caused by physical activity.”
“Based on our previous experiments we conclude that indeed curcumin treatment have [sic] ability to increase performance through regulated mitochondria biogenesis on skeletal muscle.”
“It may also help in the management of exercise-induced inflammation and muscle soreness, thus enhancing recovery and subsequent performance in active people.”
“Although conflicting results regarding the effects of curcumin supplementation on DOMS exist in literature, it may be considered as a method of nutritional intervention for reducing post-exercise DOMS.”
“To date most exercise studies have used curcumin acutely to impact short-term recovery. Given these effects, it is reasonable to speculate that curcumin might be a beneficial addition to a long-term training program.”
“In conclusion, curcumin can be considered an effective natural remedy to modulate oxidative stress and inflammation, improving athletic performance.”
“In conclusion, the evidences presented indicate that curcumin supplementation in human beings is likely safe and beneficial for sport and physical activity, due to the reduction of inflammation and oxidative stress, reduction of pain and muscle damage, improved muscle recovery, sport performance, psychological and physiological responses (thermal and cardiovascular) during training, as well as the GI function.”
CONCLUSION: THE ‘WHAT’ IS CLEAR; THE ‘HOW’ IS TRICKIER
The ever-increasing body of in vitro, animal, and human studies creates a compelling picture of the benefits curcuminoids have on exercising humans; however, one variable is true for all of these studies: curcuminoids must be delivered in their free, unaltered states in order to produce these effects. This obstacle is the reason why curcuminoids have taken off in the supplement industry but not in the space of conventional medicine. It’s also the obstacle that HALO clears.
We patented HALO because combining curcuminoids with the omega-3 phospholipids in Superba2™ creates the most effective delivery mechanism I’ve tested or researched. No other formula, supplement, or solution protects, delivers, and promotes uptake of active curcuminoids as effectively as HALO.
With HALO, we cracked the code to unlock curcuminoids’ full potential. In the next blog installment on HALO, I’ll explain the problem – and its solution – in depth.
If you’d like to learn more about other multivitamins and immune health, check this blog out.
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Campbell MS, Carlini NA, Fleenor BS. Influence of curcumin on performance and post-exercise recovery. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2020 Apr22;1-11.
Cardaci TD, Machek SB, Wilburn DT, Hwang PS, Willoughby DS. Ubiquitin proteasome system activity is suppressed by curcumin following exercise-induced muscle damage in human skeletal muscle J Am Coll Nutr. 2021 Jul;40(5):401-11.
Chilelli NC, Ragazzi E, Valentini R, Cosma C, Ferraresso S, Lapolla A, Sartore G. Curcumin and Boswellia serrate modulate the glycol-oxidative status and lipo-oxidation in master athletes. Nutrients. 2016 Nov21;8(11):745.
Doma K, Devantier-Thomas B, Gahreman D, Connor J. Selected root plant supplementation reduces indices of exercise-induced muscle damage: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 2020 Nov16;1-21.
Drobnic F, Riera J, Appendino G, Togni S, Franceschi F, Valle X, Pons A, Tur J. Reduction of delayed onset muscle soreness by a novel curcumin delivery system (Meriva): a randomised, placebo-controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014 Jun18;11:31.
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Szymanski MC, Gillum TL, Gould LM, Morin DS, Kuennen MR. Short-term dietary curcumin supplementation reduces gastrointestinal barrier damage and physiological strain responses during exertional heat stress. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2018 Feb1;124(2):330-40.
Tanner EA, Gary MA, Davis AA, Michalik S, McFarlin BK. Alterations in systemic inflammatory response following a half-marathon race with a combined curcumin and pomegranate supplement: a feasibility study. J Diet Suppl. 2020a Jul13;1-17.
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