A word of caution against…another word of caution. (Part 1)

In mid February I received a Google Alert that took me to a study published in January 2010: http://tinyurl.com/ygl775x The full text is available for free online…just click on the “Download PDF” button. At first, I admit, I was concerned (I mean, heckaroni, I don’t want to be taking anything that could possibly hurt me…or, horror!, hurt anyone else, for that matter!)…then I read the study again (and again…and again), did a bit of research, and my concern was put to rest.

Back then, I wrote a draft that I didn’t publish immediately but set aside, intending to return to it in a less “heated” moment. Well, I then got caught up in other things—my father-in-law’s health condition and so on—so I forgot about my draft…and many other things, come to think of it!…until a few days ago, when a blog reader left me a comment that included a link to a study written by three of the same authors who wrote the above-mentioned January paper and published this month (see: http://tinyurl.com/y8k73g4). Other blog readers have since brought that March study to my attention. Judging from the abstract, the content of the March study appears to be much the same as that of the January one, which I shall be discussing in this post (and at least one more). The study is fully available online, so you can read it, too.

Note: the January 2010 study mentions the Australian MGUS-curcumin pilot study that I posted about on my blog last year…here is a reminder of what that is all about: https://margaret.healthblogs.org/life-with-myeloma/discovery-of-curcumin/md-anderson-curcumin-myeloma-clinical-trial-results/another-curcumin-mm-clinical-trial/.

Before I begin, I would like to make it clear that I always enjoy reading serious, well-presented and well-argued studies, even if they are critical of something near and dear to me (in this case, curcumin). This particular study, however, does not fall into that category…no, I was not impressed with it. In Part 1, therefore, I would like to make a few points that I will develop further in Part 2…:

  1. if you look at the “References” section (p. 268), you will notice that the authors don’t list any of the curcumin studies co-authored by Prof. Aggarwal. Not one. Now, I am always interested in a study’s bibliography, and I must say that I was quite surprised and also puzzled not to find an Aggarwal study among the 12 curcumin studies listed here. Out of curiosity, I did a search for “Prof. Aggarwal” in PubMed, where I found that he has co-authored 495 studies, 69 of which are on curcumin. Now, in my opinion, writing a study on curcumin without referencing Aggarwal, the world’s authority on curcumin and cancer, is like writing an essay criticizing the theory of relativity without quoting Einstein…or writing about Harry Potter without mentioning J.K. Rowling. It just makes no sense…or…could there be more to this than just…forgetfulness? (Oh dear, perhaps I have watched too many seasons of “CSI Crime Scene” and have developed an overly suspicious nature…)
  2. here and there, the authors seem to use the words “turmeric” and “curcumin” interchangeably. But wait, there is a HUGE difference between the two. Turmeric is the spice…whereas curcumin is its active ingredient. Are the authors confused on this crucial point? We will discuss this more in depth, but not today…
  3. the choice of “case study” was a bit peculiar, and you can bet your purple socks that I have loads to say about it! Not now, though. I would like for you to read this study without too much interference on my part.

Oh phooey, I can’t resist. I will interfere…but just on one more point. It is hard not to be struck by a sentence written at the very beginning of the study (my emphasis): A recent pilot study found that curcumin, in certain patients with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), decreases the paraprotein load and the urinary N-telopeptide of type 1 collagen bone turnover marker. While this result is encouraging, the easy availability of the food component turmeric, containing curcumin, may lead to intake by MGUS patients without medical supervision.

Now wait a sec…does this mean that—based only on ONE case study (as we will soon find out)—all MGUS folks and, even more so, SMM patients, should avoid cooking with a bit of turmeric without our doctor’s approval??? Even if we are not doing any chemo? Even if we do not have another health condition that requires us to take prescription medicine? Even if we don’t have a medical history similar to the case study discussed in this report? After a moment of surprise, then of irritation, this sentence almost made me laugh. Ridikkulus.

Sure, I agree with the authors that we should always inform and update our doctors on the supplements that we are taking…I have stated that over and over again in blog posts and private messages…that just boils down to common sense.

I am certain, however, that my haematologist would not be overly pleased, to put it mildly, if I phoned her every time I decided to cook something, asking her to check my list of ingredients. “Hello, Prof. S, may I add a bit of grated ginger to my vegetable soup?” C’mon, this is really going a bit too far…

Okay, that’s it for today. As I mentioned, I don’t want to make too many comments right now, but you can be sure that I have plenty to say…ah yes, plenty…stay tuned…

6 Comments

  1. Creat reaction! I use about one years Turmeric, and my experiences are positive, very positive. I feel comfortable with it and have had no other diseases (even the swine flu 🙂 ). I agree with your critical analysis of this warning… Thanks.

  2. it´s not always clear defind or described weather Curcumin was applied without or with piperin (bioperine)??
    In all these studies a daily intake of 2g, 4 g or 8 g Curcumin is described but nobody knows weather it was including Piperin (Bioperin) or not??

  3. “In humans, at dose of 2 g curcumin, serum levels were undetectable , but concomitant with piperine 20 mg, increased the bioavailability by 2000%.”

    What shall we take per day??
    8 x 1 g Curcuminoids (95%) or
    8 x 1 g Curcuminoids (95%) including 8 x 3-5 mg Piperin (Bioperine)

    or what is recommended ???

  4. I’m 5 years mgus and have taken turmeric for about a year, with stable numbers. Now thanks to you I’ve started your protocol as what I hope is good prophylaxis. So of course I agree with our critical comments. I’ll keep you posted, of course. Maybe even peppered with questions.

    More later, much more.

  5. I just heard back from Dr. Aggarwal, and he said, “bioperine makes no significant difference”, well then if that’s the case, why risk gastro irritation–the non bioperine is available from AFI which is the Sabinsa C3 one and the one used in the anderson trial, it’s 500mg and the rep at afi said it is best if capsules are opened and put into yogurt. Dr. A said to start at 500 mg a day and get up to 8000 a day do it 2g 4x a day and give it 3 months to see if it works. This seems to be the clearest info I’ve seen so far–and also, the rep at AFI said, taking fish oil, or other things at same time as cucurmin doesn’t make a difference in it’s absorption when they are all still in capsules and the cucurmin isn’t mixed in with it. And he said it’s way too messy to put it into oil, etc..just stir it in yogurt and take it he advised. Anybody been doing this, or has everyone been taking it with the bioperine?

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