Curcumin, the yellow pigment of turmeric, has been shown to be effective against a whole slew of inflammation related diseases including cancer and Alzheimer's. That much is clear. But the question remains: How should one consume curcumin, and in what form and manner, in order to reap the most benefits? Many supplements exist, promising the most bio-available curcumin. They are full of curcumin extract in different concentrations.
Curcumin is recognized as the principle bio-active component of turmeric. However, this not the entire story. Curcumin is transformed through digestion into different forms known as metabolites. It is the metabolites that are easily absorbed by the body, not the whole curcumin molecule. Some of the known metabolites of Curcumin are curcumin glucuronides and sulfates.
The question then becomes are the metabolites of curcumin effective as an anti-inflammatory and canncer preventing agent?
The answer might just be yes according to these studies, which show the effectiveness of curcumin metabolites, especially tetrahydrocurcuminoid:
It is through microorganisms and enzymes in the human gut that curcumin is transformed. In 2011, Japanese researchers isolated a microorganism and enzyme responsible for curcumin's transformation into the potent and easily absorbed metabolites. They identified a type of E. Coli as the responsible agent. I wouldn't assume it is the sole transformative agent, but it's what they found.
In summary, curcumin is transformed into potent metabolites through enzymes and microbes in our digestive system. So it is possible to "ferment" curcumin in vitro- outside the body, and perhaps in a mason jar, as the Japanese study displayed. I wonder if any of the common microbes used in food processing like lactobacillus, aspergillus, and s. cerevisiae are capable of performing the transformation?
Before I end, it is important to acknowledge the risks of taking concentrated supplements- which curcumin is. This well researched letter addresses the dark side of curcumin. I tend to believe that natural medicine in food and plant form is better than the extract form. However, if you can't consume enough of the foods, then yes to the extracts with care. But turmeric is widely available, so how best to prepare it? Cooking in oil is suggested because curcumin is oil-soluble. Curry's are prepared this way. Daily consumption of low doses might be the way to go. But what about fermenting turmeric to eat in food form? That's what these posts are about.