Curcumin boosts positive effect of exercise on blood vessels


Cardio training makes your blood vessels healthier. Raising your heart rate rejuvenates the epithelium layer of the walls of your blood vessels. This process of rejuvenation is helped not only by training, but also by taking curcumin [structural formula shown here], researchers at the University of Tsukuba in Japan discovered.

Curcumin is the primary active ingredient in turmeric. It has a broad range of positive health effects. Curcumin has an anabolic/anticatabolic effect in muscle tissue, it inhibits the conversion of amino acids into energy, it protects the prostate against androgens, boosts the blood vessel widening effect of NO – and may also possibly slow the rate at which your hair turns grey. Not bad.

Japanese researchers recently published studies in which they studied the effect of curcumin on the blood vessels of post-menopausal women. [Nutr Res. 2012 Oct; 32(10): 795-9.] After the menopause women are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, and the researchers looked at whether a simple exercise programme could do something to alleviate this.

At the start of the programme the researchers got 22 subjects to walk or cycle for 30 minutes three times a week at 60 percent of their maximal heart rate. At the end of the test the women were doing 40-60 minutes at 70-75 percent of their maximal heart rate.

Eleven women did the exercise only [Exercise]. Eleven other women exercised and also took a daily 150 mg curcumin [Curcumin]. The women used Theracurmin, a product manufactured by the Japanese Theravalues Corporation. According to the manufacturer the body absorbs this form of curcumin better than regular curcumin.

A control group consisting of another ten women did nothing at all [Control].

Before starting on the exercise programme and at the end the researchers measured the women’s flow-mediated dilation. They closed off a blood vessel in the arm, and then released it so that the blood could flow freely and measured the extent to which the blood vessels widened. The bigger the widening, the healthier the blood vessels.

The figure below shows that the flow-mediated dilation increased significantly in the Exercise and Curcumin groups. The effect is slightly stronger in the Curcumin group, but the difference between the improvement in the Exercise and the Curcumin groups is not significant.


The researchers showed a greater success in another publication, from a study in which they had looked at a different indicator of blood vessel health: the carotid arterial compliance. [Am J Hypertens. 2012 Jun; 25(6): 651-6.]

The carotids are the blood vessels that supply the brain with blood. Because the brain’s blood vessels are vulnerable, the carotids have to be able to supply large quantities of blood, but at the same time the blood pressure in the brain mustn’t get too high. They achieve this by widening. The higher the carotid arterial compliance is the suppler the carotids are and the better they do their work. Ageing causes a reduction in the carotid arterial compliance, and this speeds up after the menopause.

The figure below shows that exercise increased carotid arterial compliance, and that curcumin supplementation boosted this effect significantly. Click on the figure for a larger version.


On this occasion the researchers also had a group of women that took curcumin but did not exercise.

How curcumin boosts the effects of exercise the Japanese researchers don’t know. They speculate that curcumin blocks the effect of the inflammatory protein TNF-alpha, but have no data to back this up.

“Curcumin ingestion alone increases arterial compliance in postmenopausal women”, the researchers conclude. “Combining curcumin ingestion with aerobic exercise training more effectively increases arterial compliance than curcumin ingestion or aerobic exercise training alone. Regular curcumin ingestion and aerobic exercise may be effective lifestyle modifications for minimizing and reversing the loss of carotid arterial compliance with advancing age in women.”

Curcumin ingestion and exercise training improve vascular endothelial function in postmenopausal women.

Akazawa N, Choi Y, Miyaki A, Tanabe Y, Sugawara J, Ajisaka R, Maeda S.


Graduate School of Comprehensive Human Science, University of Tsukuba, 1-1-1 Tennodai, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.


Vascular endothelial function is declines with aging and is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Lifestyle modification, particularly aerobic exercise and dietary adjustment, has a favorable effect on vascular aging. Curcumin is a major component of turmeric with known anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects. We investigated the effects of curcumin ingestion and aerobic exercise training on flow-mediated dilation as an indicator endothelial function in postmenopausal women. A total of 32 postmenopausal women were assigned to 3 groups: control, exercise, and curcumin groups. The curcumin group ingested curcumin orally for 8 weeks. The exercise group underwent moderate aerobic exercise training for 8 weeks. Before and after each intervention, flow-mediated dilation was measured. No difference in baseline flow-mediated dilation or other key dependent variables were detected among the groups. Flow-mediated dilation increased significantly and equally in the curcumin and exercise groups, whereas no changes were observed in the control group. Our results indicated that curcumin ingestion and aerobic exercise training can increase flow-mediated dilation in postmenopausal women, suggesting that both can potentially improve the age-related decline in endothelial function.

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23146777

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