Reliable Test Developed to Identify Synthetic Curcumin
- Wednesday, 26 October 2011
Curcumin is a high-potency extract of the herb turmeric prized for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. As curcumin demand increases, the competition for this medicinal herb has also increased. This has given rise to a “false” botanical entering the natural health market: synthetic curcumin. Synthetic curcumin is created using petrochemicals and is not a natural compound.
Until now, there was no precise method to identify synthetic curcumin. However, at the University of Georgia, with scientific support from the makers of BCM-95® bioavailable, natural curcumin, a reliable test has been developed.
“It is my understanding that all the amazing health studies on curcumin—on everything from pain to arthritis to cancer—have been conducted using natural curcumin sourced from the turmeric plant. And historically, using synthetics instead of bioidenticals for a molecule as complex as curcumin has turned out to be a very wrong choice,” states Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, medical director of the national Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers, Inc., and author of several best-selling books, “This is a big problem because you can’t tell from looking at the label whether it is natural or synthetic curcumin. As a physician, I need to know what I am using for my patients.”
Scientists know that synthetic curcumin is derived from petroleum-based products. Therefore, they developed a test based on radiocarbon dating analysis to show that 100% of the synthetic material corresponds to fossil fuel-derived material. Natural curcumin does not. Carbon dating has previously been used in paleontology to determine the age of ancient organic compounds by measuring the release of carbon isotopes over time. Since petroleum is an ancient carbon-based substance, it releases carbon isotopes that are detectable in the test. Since natural curcumin does not release carbon isotopes in this manner, it is easily differentiated.
If a product is partially natural but synthetic curcumin is added to “stretch” the content, the test will detect this as well. The test result will show a percentage that corresponds to fossil fuel and the percentage that does not.
“This is a great step forward in making sure consumers are protected from synthetics masquerading as natural botanicals,” says industry leader Terry Lemerond, founder and CEO of EuroPharma, Inc., which has exclusivity on BCM-95 curcumin in the health food retail and practitioner market. “Curcumin is made up of a family of compounds, and each plays an important role in its ability to make a real difference with a whole host of health problems. People have a right to know if they are buying something perfected by Mother Nature, or some cheap imitation.”
Several lots of curcumin have been tested at the University of Georgia to calibrate their testing methodology to assure accuracy. The next step is to test commercial products to determine the breadth of synthetic curcumin’s penetration into natural products. According to Lemerond, testing is set to begin in September 2011.