Updated on April 13, 2023
Each year, millions of Americans struggle to manage their weight. Unfortunately, that weight management can be elusive. In a culture in which stressful lifestyles, limited physical activity, and a plethora of high-calorie food options are common, a person’s health can take a back seat more often than not. Indeed, even a vigorous exercise routine might not be enough to make up for the hours spent sedentary, and many face significant internal and external barriers to eating a healthy, calorie-appropriate diet.
Comorbid health conditions can also interfere with weight management, diminishing the impact of even strict adherence to otherwise effective strategies. As a result, individuals are left to cope with not only the elevated physical health risks of excess weight, but, often, significant psychological ramifications, such as low self-esteem, poor body image, depression, and anxiety.
Considering the difficulties individuals have with weight management and the consequences of excess weight, the availability of a safe, effective, and highly tolerable weight management aid would be invaluable. Unfortunately, many people are often skeptical about new weight management techniques. This is understandable; the fad diets, supplements, and new exercise routines constantly making the rounds often fail to live up to their promise. Some can even be dangerous.
However, many individuals have simply not been able to adhere to or see meaningful results from even sensible weight management plans in the past, making them reluctant to try again. This is particularly true for those who have a metabolic disorder that makes some weight management strategies, like fasting, non-viable and limit the efficacy of otherwise safe and reliable methods. Now, however, individuals—including those with a metabolic disorder—might be able to enhance weight management safely and effectively thanks to a natural compound called curcumin.*
A growing body of evidence suggests that curcumin, a natural polyphenol derived from turmeric, can potentially act as an effective weight management aid.* Indeed, as a safe, natural, and well-tolerated product, curcumin might be a simple and low-risk way of adding a boost to a weight management routine for virtually anyone looking to shed the pounds.*
Curcumin’s most effective and exciting clinical niche is more focused than general weight management, thanks to the physiological levers that it can engage. Specifically, curcumin might help individuals who have a metabolic disorder, who face unique physiological barriers to weight management, drop excess weight.
The reason curcumin might promote weight management is that it decreases the efficiency with which cells process nutrients, causing them to produce a smaller balance of chemical energy per unit of food.* With a smaller balance of chemical energy, the body needs to break into its reserves of fat to provide sufficient chemical energy to keep essential cells in operation, thereby assisting in body fat management. But there is also a second mechanism at work: reducing insulin resistance.*
When cells are insulin resistant, they don’t consume normal amounts of food energy, nor do they release normal amounts of chemical energy for other tissues to utilize. By reducing insulin resistance and restoring physiological stability, curcumin enables a person’s cells to process more nutrients.* When more nutrients than normal are internalized by the cell and subsequently processed inefficiently, a person can manage weight more readily. For individuals who struggle with being overweight and have a metabolic disorder, curcumin can be a safe and effective option to add to their weight management regimen.*
In 2015, Drs. Pierro, Giacomelli, and Bertuccioli were the first to show that curcumin can be an effective weight management aid in people with metabolic syndrome who were resistant to other weight management interventions.* In a study published by the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, the researchers examined a cohort of 44 subjects who had a metabolic syndrome, such as type II diabetes. After recruiting the initial cohort, the subjects participated in a standard weight management regimen appropriate for obese individuals with metabolic syndromes. This regimen included exercise, lifestyle counseling, and nutrient restriction.
After the participants had been on this weight management regimen for 30 days, their weight and other anthropometrics, like hip circumference, thigh circumference, and BMI were measured. Using the information derived from their measurements, the researchers then selected only the participants who had not responded to the weight management regimen; not responding to the regimen was defined as experiencing less than a two-percent drop in their body weight over the course of the weight management program. These non-responding participants were then used as the trial’s cohort.
The non-responders were split into two equally sized groups, with one group receiving curcumin and a control group receiving a phosphatidylserine placebo. Phosphatidylserine is a biological molecule used to make pharmaceutical products bioavailable, including the curcumin used in the trial. Because the curcumin supplement used in the trial was encapsulated in phosphatidylserine, any weight management observed in the curcumin group would be attributed to curcumin rather than the encapsulant.
Participants in both the control group and the curcumin group received lifestyle counseling regarding dietary choices and began another round of the weight management regimen while taking either the curcumin supplement or the placebo.
After 30 days, the most important finding was that participants who were resistant to other weight management methods benefitted from taking curcumin; in fact, the curcumin group universally benefitted whereas other weight management regimens like exercise programs had failed to show any significant benefit.* However, the extent to which the participants benefited from curcumin therapy varied substantially.
At a minimum, the curcumin participants lost 1.88 percent of their body weight over the course of the 30-day trial, whereas the control group participants lost no body weight. At a maximum, the curcumin participants lost 4.91 percent of their body mass. For someone weighing 300 pounds, this resulted in curcumin causing them to lose between 5.64 and 14.73 pounds, an impressive yet comfortable amount if it could be maintained over the course of a few months. Importantly, the amount of weight management in the curcumin group was well within the range of the safe rate of weight management.*
For weight management metrics like hip circumference, the differences between strong responders and weak responders were even more pronounced. The strongest responders experienced a 2.51 percent reduction in hip circumference, whereas the weakest barely broke 0.7 percent; in informal terms, the high end of the range equates to dropping one pants size over the course of a month. BMI was similarly variable, with the strongest responders experiencing a 6.43 percent reduction in contrast with the 2.10 percent of the weakest responders.
The variability in the curcumin response indicates that consumers should not be dissuaded from experimenting when they read about others who report poor results. Likewise, consumers will need to view curcumin as a weight management aid rather than a panacea.* Approaching weight management from multiple angles will remain necessary, as will a sustained commitment.
However, the fact that all subjects in the curcumin group saw a decrease in weight, despite the fact they had been unable to rely on conventional methods, should give hope to individuals struggling with metabolic disorders, which often interfere with otherwise effective weight management methods.
While curcumin is in clinical trials with human cohorts, researchers are analyzing animal studies for further clues about the efficacy of curcumin and what aspect to study next. One such animal study found that obese mice who were fed curcumin over the course of 8 weeks were 10 percent lighter than obese mice who were not fed curcumin, and higher amounts of curcumin appeared to correspond to lower body weights in the obese mice.
Importantly, the study also showed that curcumin reduced the impact of being overweight; in mice and also in humans, the concentration of triglyceride molecules in the blood is viewed as a cardiovascular health risk factor. In the study, researchers found that while the control mice had plasma triglyceride levels nearly three times those of healthy mice, the levels in the mice that received curcumin were similar to their healthy counterparts.*
The results of this study and other animal studies indicate that curcumin can have significant benefits.* A more recent review of curcumin’s use as a weight management aid supports this conclusion, pointing to a handful of preliminary studies on curcumin for weight management with positive results.* Nonetheless, without extensive human clinical trials, the animal studies are far from sufficient to establish curcumin as a clinical standard for weight management. Promising results are still subject to replication by other researchers, as well as elaboration regarding biochemical mechanisms. Likewise, scientists are using the earlier animal studies to synthesize new perspectives on how curcumin works and where it can work the best.
While more definitive answers are forthcoming, individuals who struggle with losing weight might want to incorporate highly bioavailable curcumin supplements in their weight management efforts now, particularly if they are dealing with a metabolic disorder. Most people find curcumin easy to tolerate, and the only commonly reported side effects are transient nausea and diarrhea when users take too large of an amount. Despite the remaining scientific questions regarding how best to use curcumin as a weight management aid, the advanced curcumin supplements on the market today can potentially be a critical part of helping individuals achieve their goals and protect their health.*
The power of Tesseract supplements lies in enhancing palatability, maximizing bioavailability and absorption, and micro-dosing of multiple nutrients in a single, highly effective capsule. Visit our website for more information about how Tesseract’s products can help support your endocrine health.*
Di Pierro F, Bressan A, Ranaldi D, et al. 2015. European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences 19:4195-4202.
Jin T, Song Z, Weng J, Fantus IG. 2018. American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism. 314(3):E201-E205.
Kuo JJ, Chang HH, Tsai TH, Lee TY. 2012. International Journal of Molecular Medicine. 30(3):673-679.
Nelson K, Dahlin J, Bisson J, et al. 2017. Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. 60(5):1620-1637.
Wilken R, Veena MS, Wang MB, Srivatsan ES. 2011. Molecular Cancer.10(12).