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Older man riding mountain bike using curcumin to help stave off aging process

Curcumin's Anti-Aging Properties

Curcumin circumvents factors involved with biological aging including helping to maintain telomere length, induce autophagy and suppress inflammation.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in October 2021. Written by: Robert Morse.

Group of runners on hill using curcumin to combat aging symptoms

Researchers are discovering that curcumin combats several key factors of aging.

Recent studies show that curcumin helps eliminate senescent cells,1-3 increases telomere length,4,5 protects against glycation,6-10 and activates AMPK11-13 and autophagy.14

In one animal study, it extended average lifespan by 26%.15

The accumulating evidence indicates that curcumin helps stave off the aging process.14,16,17

Curcumin has one drawback—poor oral bioavailability.

Relatively little of ingested curcumin finds its way into the bloodstream.

A method has been discovered that combines curcumin with a fiber derived from fenugreek seeds.

Blood levels in people who received this curcumin encased in fenugreek fiber were 45 times greater than in those who took unformulated curcumin.18

Curcumin and Aging

Man running upstairs supplementing curcumin for reducing excess body weight

Curcumin is a polyphenol found in the root of the turmeric plant.

Turmeric has long been used in Indian cuisine and traditional medicine.19,20 Epidemiological studies suggest that some age-related diseases, like Alzheimer’s, are less common in those who consume it regularly, both nutritionally and medicinally.21,22

Curcumin may be the reason. In human studies, this compound led to improvements in cognition and memory, compared to a placebo.23

It also reduces risk factors that contribute to these diseases, such as excess body weight, abnormal blood lipid levels, and high blood pressure.24-27

These benefits add up.

In various model organisms, ranging from yeast to fruit flies to C elegans worms, curcumin consistently extends lifespan.15,28-32

In one example, curcumin use prolonged the average lifespan of fruit flies by 26%.15

What Drives Aging?

Curcumin doesn’t achieve all these benefits through one simple mechanism.

There are many underlying “causes” of aging. These have an impact on our cells, slowly leading to loss of function and increased risk for age-related disorders.

Scientists have long been searching for compounds that can counter these changes, essentially “treating aging.”33

Out of a long list of pathological mechanisms that drive aging, curcumin influences several of the most important.

Maintaining Telomeres

Our chromosomes (the chains of DNA that make up our genetic material) are capped by protective structures called telomeres.

As we age and our cells continue to divide, their telomeres gradually shorten. When they become too short, the cell loses its ability to divide and may become dysfunctional. That leads to disease and accelerated aging.34

Most cells lack the ability to build new telomeres, or only do so in small amounts.

But preclinical studies show that curcumin boosts the expression and activity of telomerase, the enzyme that adds new DNA to the ends of telomeres.4,5 Telomere length is crucial to maintain and support cellular activities.

Reducing Senescent Cells

As cells age, they’re supposed to die off to make room for healthy new cells.

Some don’t. These cells accumulate damage and enter a state known as senescence.

Senescent cells don’t function properly, and they lose the ability to divide. This greatly impairs the function of the tissues to which they belong.

Senescent cells secrete compounds that incite inflammation in surrounding tissues. Cellular senescence is a significant contributor to aging and age-related illness.35-37

Senolytics are nutrients or drugs that can eliminate senescent cells from the body.38

Studies show that curcumin and its metabolites have senolytic activity.1-3 In one study on mice, curcumin was able to decrease the number of senescent cells to a normal level.2

Regulating Vital Proteins

Nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB) is a protein complex associated with the chronic inflammation that damages tissues.

What you need to know

Ground turmeric that contain curcumin and used in traditional medicine

The Life-Extending Power of Curcumin

  • Curcumin is a polyphenol compound found in turmeric root. It has been used in Indian cuisine and traditional medicine for centuries.
  • Animal models consistently demonstrate that curcumin can prolong life.
  • Animal and human studies show that it has a beneficial impact on many aspects of health, from healthy weight to cardiovascular and brain health.
  • Many different “causesof aging have been identified, including oxidative stress, chronic inflammation, glycation, cellular senescence, loss of telomere length, and more. Many of them are powerfully, positively impacted by curcumin.

In several studies, curcumin has been shown to inhibit NF-kB signaling and reduce the production of compounds that incite inflammation.39-41

Overactivity of another protein, mTOR, is tied to rapid aging and metabolic abnormalities that contribute to chronic disease. Compounds that block mTOR activity (such as the drug rapamycin) extend lifespan in animal models.42

Curcumin decreases the activity of mTOR as well.16,43-45

AMPK is an enzyme that supports healthy metabolism. Low AMPK activity is associated with insulin resistance and metabolic disease such as type II diabetes.46

Increasing AMPK activity can improve metabolic health. The drug metformin activates AMPK and is commonly used to control diabetes and related disorders. In model organisms it extends lifespan.47

Curcumin has been shown to be a natural activator of AMPK.11-13

Sirtuins are a group of proteins that are critical to protecting the cell from damage that leads to aging and disease. Activation of sirtuins helps protect DNA from damage and mutations.48

Sirtuin activity tends to drop with age.48-50 In animal models, activators of sirtuins prolong life.48,51 Yet again, curcumin boosts sirtuin activity to protect cells and increase longevity in various models.48

Reducing Oxidative Stress and Chronic Inflammation

Any discussion of aging and age-related disease inevitably includes oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. Curcumin protects against both.

Curcumin helps shield us from oxidative damage. It also helps bolster natural antioxidant enzymes and compounds.52

Chronic inflammation that generally accompanies aging is a driver of practically every age-related disease, including atherosclerosis, diabetes, dementia, and cancer.

It is considered to be such an important contributor to aging, that scientists have coined the term inflammaging to describe it.53,54

Curcumin inhibits markers of inflammation (IL-6 and hs-CRP), which can help reduce low-grade, chronic inflammation.52

Preventing Glycation

Man using bar to do pull ups and curcumin to prevent glycation

Glycation occurs when sugars attach to proteins and fats, causing tissue damage. It is another major contributor to accelerated aging and many diseases of older age.55,56

Glycation occurs even in people with normal blood sugar. In those with high blood sugar, such as diabetics, glycation is greatly accelerated, usually leading to faster aging and higher risk for chronic disease.

Preclinical studies have shown that curcumin protects cells and tissues from the damage caused by glycation.6-10

One way it can do this is by trapping a toxic product of glucose metabolism known as methylglyoxal, stopping it before it can react with proteins or other structures.6

It can also block harmful effects when glycation has already occurred, preventing the inflammation and cellular dysfunction caused by advanced glycation end products.10

In animal studies, curcumin intake prevents disease caused by glycation. For example, cataracts are a common cause of blindness that are largely caused by glycation. In diabetic rats, taking curcumin significantly delays the development of cataracts.57

Improving Energy Balance and Housekeeping

Mitochondrial dysfunction and poor cellular housekeeping are other contributors to loss of function with age.

Curcumin boosts the health of the mitochondria, the “powerhouses” of the cells, which improves cellular energy balance.58

It also activates autophagy, the cellular housekeeping that helps rid cells of old and worn-out parts and replace them with new ones.14

Summary

Taken together, all of these actions explain how curcumin helps reduce risk for chronic illness and supports healthy longevity.

Studies show that curcumin use extends the lifespan of many different organisms. It also reduces the risk and impact of many chronic, age-related diseases.

It appears to work by addressing multiple drivers of aging and chronic illness.

By reducing oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, maintaining telomere length, getting rid of senescent cells, preventing glycation, and more, curcumin can promote overall health.

Boosting the Bioavailability of Curcumin

Lab researcher using microscope to improve curcumin's bioavailability

Curcumin has one major problem: It has poor bioavailability.

That means much of standard curcumin is not absorbed into the body or is rapidly metabolized to other related compounds.

Scientists have discovered a way around this problem. By combining curcumin with a fiber called galactomannans, from the spice fenugreek, the curcumin is protected in the gut and resists metabolism.

People who took this combination had levels of curcumin in the bloodstream that were 45 times greater than those who took curcumin alone.18

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.

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