- Curcumin, a chemical in turmeric, was as effective as the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac, but demonstrated a better tolerance among patients with knee osteoarthritis, according to a study in the journal Trials.
- The 139 participants were given either 500 milligrams of Arjuna Natural's curcumin formulation BCM-95 (Curcugreen) three times per day or 50 mg of diclofenac two times daily for 28 days. Those receiving curcumin had similar pain reduction as those getting the diclofenac, the study said, but they experienced fewer side effects such as flatulence, heartburn and stomach ulcers.
- Arjuna, which is based in India, said in a release this is the first study where a positive link was shown between curcumin therapy and osteoarthritic care.
While this may be the first study linking curcumin with alleviating the symptoms of osteoarthritis, many studies have explored turmeric's effects on an array of health problems.
The vibrant orange root is not only featured in Asian cuisine by contributing color and flavor to curries and other dishes, but it is credited with preventing or treating fatty liver disease, containing anti-cancer properties and even enhancing memory function and alleviating depression.
These coveted qualities have boosted turmeric's profile and prompted food and beverage manufacturers to include it in more of their products. There was a 21% increase of new product launches with tumeric in 2016, for example, and the spice is now showing up in Peet's Coffee, Good Day Chocolate, REBBL organic coconut milk and Pukka tea.
Even Big Food is getting in on this trend. Kraft Heinz removed artificial colors from its macaroni and cheese in 2016 and is now using turmeric and other natural sources as a replacement.
It's likely this and other studies will continue to attract the attention of manufacturers to turmeric and the curcumin it contains. As a functional ingredient with potential health benefits, food and beverage makers can tout the product's assets on package labels — and maybe even mention this recent link with osteoarthritis pain relief in marketing materials.
Turmeric has had some stumbles along the way to becoming an ingredient superstar, including a link to lead contamination and multiple recalls. Part of the problem likely stems from a lack of oversight, which could be remedied if more U.S. manufacturers grew and processed turmeric stateside where food safety protocols are more strictly enforced. Currently, most of the turmeric is grown in India.
While functional foods are still a relatively new but growing category in the food and beverage industry, 60% of U.S. consumers said they choose dietary options specifically to help with certain health conditions, according to a 2016 Nielsen Global Health and Ingredient Sentiment Survey.
Projections are that functional foods will continue to expand. Zion Market Research estimated the global functional ingredients market was worth $64.9 billion last year, and was expected to hit close to $100 billion by 2025, expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 6.74%. This new study could help turmeric and curcumin take a bigger piece of the growing functional foods market.