There are relatively many studies on the health benefits of curcumin, a chemical compound in the spice turmeric, popularly found in curry spice blends and curry dishes. Some promising clinical trials have shown curcurmin is effective in various pro-inflammatory diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel disease, vitiligo, psoriasis, acute coronary syndrome, atherosclerosis, diabetes, diabetic nephropathy, lupus, and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
If those diseases sound familiar, it is because vitamin D appears to have beneficial effects in the same set of diseases. Like vitamin D, it also appears that curcumin is anti-inflammatory. Below is an open access paper about curcumin’s anti-inflammatory actions.
Aggarwal BB, Harikumar KB. Potential therapeutic effects of curcumin, the anti-inflammatory agent, against neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, autoimmune and neoplastic diseases. Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2009 Jan;41(1):40-59.
Everyone should know by now that vitamin D is anti-inflammatory. So is there a connection here? How does curcumin work?
A few years ago, researchers found that curcumin mimics the vitamin D molecule and functions as a vitamin D agonist. That is, it is a direct stimulator of the vitamin D receptor (VDR). In fact, curcumin may stimulate the VDR as well as activated vitamin D does.
The benefits found in curcumin may work by curcumin masquerading as vitamin D. There is simply not enough research into this area to know for sure at this time, but we should keep an eye out for research in this area.