Taking a turmeric (curcumin) supplement may help slow the progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD) by changing levels of certain chemicals in the body that are toxic to the kidneys, according to a new study published in the journal Nutrients.
Turmeric is a root that is often used as a spice, especially in Indian cuisine. Most people know it as a yellow-orange powder, and it generally has a mild but zesty flavor. Taking a turmeric supplement is very different from consuming the root or spice, because in any high-quality supplement, active compounds from turmeric have been highly concentrated. These compounds — known as curcuminoids, the best known of which is curcumin — belong to a larger family of beneficial chemicals known as polyphenols. Polyphenols are found in certain plant foods — including berries, cocoa, beans, and nuts — and are known to have a range of beneficial effects in the body, including potentially helping to preserve brain function as you get older. Curcumin, in particular, has been shown to have a range of beneficial health effects in studies — including potentially helping with blood glucose control, boosting cardiovascular health, and fighting cancer. There is also some evidence that it may help preserve kidney health, which is why researchers were interested in looking at that possible benefit for the latest study.
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In particular, the researchers looked at how taking a curcumin supplement affected levels of what are known as uremic toxins. These chemicals are produced by certain gut bacteria, and are believed to contribute to kidney disease progression. Blood levels of these toxins tend to increase along with kidney disease progression, as noted in an article on the study at NutraIngredients. The study participants were 24 older adults with chronic kidney disease, along with a control group of 20 older adults without kidney disease. The participants with kidney disease took a curcumin supplement for six months — containing 100 milligrams of curcuminoids twice daily — and all participants had various blood, stool, and other body measurements taken at the beginning of the study, after three months, and after six months.
Curcumin supplement linked to improved gut bacteria profile
The researchers found that taking the curcumin supplement shifted participants’ gut bacteria profile in a healthy direction, increasing levels of three varieties known to have beneficial health effects (Lactobacillaceae, Prevotellaceae, and Lachnospira). Presumably due at least in part to this shift in participants’ gut bacteria profile, they also didn’t see any increase in two different known uremic toxins in their blood, as would be expected in someone with chronic kidney disease. In fact, blood levels of one of these uremic toxins actually went down after three months and again after six months of taking a curcumin supplement.
Perhaps most surprisingly, the researchers found that taking a curcumin supplement may have had an effect on body composition, with participants showing a reduction in fat mass percentage over the course of the study. While this outcome may reflect nutritional counseling that was offered as part of the study, it could also be due — at least in part — to metabolic changes resulting from a different gut bacteria profile. No adverse events were reported by participants who took a curcumin supplement, suggesting that taking it carried no significant risks but offered many potential benefits.
“Our pilot study demonstrated the promising benefits of curcumin supplementation in chronic kidney disease,” the researchers concluded, while noting that these results should be confirmed in a larger trial that involves comparing a curcumin supplement with a placebo (inactive pill) in people with chronic kidney disease.
Want to learn more about turmeric? “Read “Turmeric and Diabetes: 10 Ways Turmeric Can Help.”