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14.09.2009


US army study: curcumin improves performance after heavy exertion

US army study: curcumin improves performance after heavy exertion
US army study: curcumin improves performance after heavy exertion
Supplements that contain curcumin, a compound from the Curcuma longa plant, may improve the performance of heavy-duty athletes and soldiers. Sports scientists at the University of South Carolina draw this conclusion in an animal study funded by the US army.

The researchers gave mice half a gram of standard feed a day [plac]. Half were given feed to which 10 mg of curcumin had been added [cur]. After three days the mice had to run for two and a half hours. One group ran downhill at a gradient of -14 degrees. Another group ran uphill, running up a slope of +14 degrees.

The researchers waited for a period of 48 or 72 hours after the initial activity, and then got the mice to run again. They measured how long it took before the mice literally could run no longer. The figure below shows that the curcumin supplement improved the performance of the mice that ran downhill. The effects in the other groups were not significant.


US army study: curcumin improves performance after heavy exertion


Curcumin has an anticatabolic effect on the muscles. The figure below shows this. You're looking at the mice's creatine kinase level measurements for 48 and 72 hours after the 150 minute exercise session. The more creatine kinase there is in the blood after physical activity, the more muscle damage there is. Curcumin reduces the damage considerably.


US army study: curcumin improves performance after heavy exertion


Another marker for muscle damage is the concentration of inflammatory proteins in the muscle tissue. The researchers measured the amount of TNF-alpha, interleukin 6 and interleukin 1-beta in the mice's muscles and observed that curcumin inhibited the production of proteins. The figure below shows what happened to TNF-alpha.


US army study: curcumin improves performance after heavy exertion


The researchers concluded from their experiments that curcumin may be interesting for soldiers and athletes who place heavy demands on their bodies, but don't have the time needed for recovery. Anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen don't help them with the pain and also slow down the recovery process. [At least in young people, perhaps not in elderly people.] But it looks as though curcumin does work. "These findings may have important ramifications with respect to novel nutritional strategies that enhance performance recovery following stressful endurance events, such as those commonly undertaken by athletes and military personnel."

This website has referred to curcumin as the 'herbal clenbuterol'. Animal studies have shown that the compound derived from turmeric inhibits muscle breakdown. The compound inhibits some of the muscle damaging mechanisms in the muscle cells, such as calpain and the proteasome. What's more, curcumin raises the metabolism. In animal experiments curcumin primarily raises the burning of fatty acids. Users don't have to worry about side effects either. Probably curcumin extends life as well, as it works against the build up of protein plaque in the brain.

There are already sports supplements containing curcumin on the market. You'll find the compound in Mannatech's BounceBack for example. The manufacturer recently published a human study which suggests that BounceBack brings a small amount of relief for training-induced muscle damage.

Source:
Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2007 Jun;292(6):R2168-73.