What The Research Says About Curcumin Bioavailability

The tremendous health benefits of curcumin are largely attributed to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties. How much benefit you might actually experience, however, depends on the bioavailability of curcumin when it’s consumed. In other words, how much curcumin is actually accessible for your body to use when it reaches circulation determines how beneficial it can actually be. This has historically been low for a number of reasons, such as the poor absorption, instability, and inability of curcumin molecules to dissolve in water. Furthermore, curcumin tends to break down in the gastrointestinal tract, significantly reducing its concentration before it can enter the bloodstream and be used by the body.

As such, several companies have been working to improve the bioavailability of curcumin products by targeting these issues, with varying successes. A 2018 review published in the Journal of Integrative Medicine examined clinical studies on 11 curcumin products that have been reformulated to tackle the problem to see what improvements had been made and how efficacious they were. The researchers observed a lot of variability in the study designs and populations, analytical methods used, and administration of the product, making it difficult to compare them. Still, they found that better curcumin bioavailability had to do with improvements made in its solubility, stability, and reduced particle size. 

One of the major changes, used by the brand NovaSol® in the study as well as one of our Food Revolution affiliates Purality Health, was the incorporation of a micelle-based technology to deliver curcumin to the body. Micelles are microscopic fat molecules that arrange themselves in a spherical shape in water, allowing the most absorption with the least resistance. Furthermore, it reduced the breakdown of curcumin in the gastrointestinal tract, allowing most of it to reach the intestinal wall for absorption. According to the review, this delivery method resulted in a 100-fold higher curcumin bioavailability compared to conventional products. While this is promising in the test tube studies reviewed, more research is needed using humans to determine how the improved curcumin formulations compare and which makes the most economic sense for consumers.