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Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a member of the ginger family and a commonly used spice worldwide. Curcumin is the yellow-orange pigment in turmeric rhizome that gives the distinctive color to curries and is also used to color mustard. Curcumin only makes up about 2-6% of the turmeric rhizome. In fact, curcumin is one of three different curcuminoids in turmeric—each important to its healthpromoting properties.

Unfortunately, curcuminoids from most dietary and supplement sources have poor solubility and are poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. The problem is with something called “bioavailability.” This refers to the proportion of a substance that is absorbed into the bloodstream and enters circulation to have an active effect in the body. This has led to the advent of enhanced bioavailability turmeric extracts that use different methods to increase absorption of curcuminoids into the bloodstream.

These extracts have used piperine (a black pepper extract), turmeric oil, and phosphatidylcholine to enhance curcuminoid bioavailability. In fact, one new extract claiming superior bioavailability is actually using 93% Polysorbate 80 to increase curcuminoid absorption. Certainly not a “natural” combination and one that persons with inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn’s disease should avoid at all costs.

One of the more interesting enhancedbioavailability extracts introduced in the past few years was developed in Japan. The extract uses a patented colloidal dispersion technology that micronizes the particle size and binds the curcuminoids with a natural combination of vegetable maltose, vegetable dextrin, and gum ghatti (a water-soluble polysaccharide from the bark of a tree native to India and Ceylon known in English as Axlewood).

A bioavailability study found that this extract was absorbed 27 times better than standard curcumin.1 A recent study compared its bioavailability to two other extracts that have been shown to have superior absorption to standard curcumin—one utilizing turmeric oil and one phosphatidylcholine.2 Looking at blood levels in healthy volunteers over a 24-hour period, it was found that patented colloidal dispersion technology extract was 11 times more bioavailable than the one using turmeric oil and 4.6 times more than the one using phosphatidylcholine.

A version of the extract standardized to 30% curcuminoids was recently introduced to the U.S. market. Two capsules of the product daily provide 180 mg of enhanced absorption curcuminoids that have been shown to be the effective dose used in recent clinical studies.

1. Biol Pharm Bull 2011;34:660-665.
2. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol 2015;61:37-44.

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