New insight into how curcumin supports the immune defense system: Linus Pauling Institute

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Curcumin tripled production of the CAMP peptide – the only one of its kind known in humans, and able to kill a broad range of pathogens

Researchers at Oregon State’s Linus Pauling Institute have just unraveled another important reason that curcumin (the primary component of the curry spice turmeric) deserves its age-old rep for health support.

Collaborating with colleagues at the University of Denmark, they discovered that dietary curcumin supports an increase in levels of the cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide (aka CAMP), a protein that helps the immune system fight off infection by pathogens the body hasn’t encountered before – including viruses, fungi, and a broad range of bacteria such as those responsible for tuberculosis and sepsis.

Prior to this, they knew that CAMP levels are increased by vitamin D3, says Pauling Institute principle investigator Adrian Gombart, PhD. Which explains why sunlight and cod liver oil have been used routinely to promote recovery from tuberculosis since the mid-19th century.

In the present study, to be published May 25 by the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, Dr. Gombart and graduate student Chunxiao Guo looked at the potential of both curcumin and omega-3 fatty acids to increase expression of the CAMP gene.

They found no particular value with the omega-3 fatty acids for this purpose, but curcumin did have a clear effect. Though its effect was not as strong as that of vitamin D, it still caused levels of CAMP to almost triple.

“This research points to a new avenue for regulating CAMP gene expression,” says Dr. Gombart. “It’s interesting and somewhat surprising that curcumin can do that,” and merits additional research, he adds.

As for its benefits as a food, “curcumin, as part of turmeric, is generally consumed in the diet at fairly low levels,” Dr. Gombart explains. But its sustained consumption over time might be especially protective against infection in the stomach and intestinal tract, he suggests.

Other recent research provides increasing evidence of curcumin’s ability to promote a balanced inflammatory response and help modulate oxidative stress as well.

Source: Based on Oregon State University (Linus Pauling Institute) information and news release, May 25, 2012