Q. I have read that turmeric may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, so I’ve been taking it for several years. I read online that turmeric needs black pepper to activate the ingredients in it. I had never heard of this before.
I buy turmeric from Puritan’s Pride, but find no mention of black pepper. Have you ever heard of this?
My late husband died from senile dementia and I want to avoid that if at all possible.
A. Curcumin and other active ingredients in the Indian spice turmeric have a range of benefits. They have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Researchers are actively investigating their use against cancer, arthritis, prediabetes and Alzheimer’s disease (Phytotherapy Research, Apr., 2014).
Clinical trials have been disappointing, however, since curcumin is not very soluble and doesn’t get into the bloodstream easily. This problem can be overcome with piperine from black pepper or with phospholipid formulations (Current Drug Discovery Technologies, Sept. 2009).
ConsumerLab.com tested turmeric and curcumin products earlier this year. The brand you take passed the test, but has the same bioavailability problems of other turmeric pills.
ConsumerLab.com discusses the merits of Bioperine (piperine) as an additive and of BCM-95, curcumin formulated for increased absorption.
Meriva and CurcuWin are novel curcumin formulations that appear to greatly increase the amount of curcumin that gets into the bloodstream (Nutrition Journal, Jan. 24, 2014).
We wrote recently about an advance in making a curcumin formulation that should make it far more useful for a variety of ailments, not just Alzheimer’s disease.