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World J Gastroenterol. Dec 28, 2013; 19(48): 9256-9270
Published online Dec 28, 2013. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v19.i48.9256
Therapeutic potential of curcumin in digestive diseases
Pietro Dulbecco, Vincenzo Savarino
Pietro Dulbecco, Vincenzo Savarino, Department of Internal Medicine and Medical Specialties, University of Genoa, 16132 Genoa, Italy
Author contributions: Both authors contributed to the search and analysis of literature and to the writing of the paper.
Correspondence to: Pietro Dulbecco, MD, Professor, Department of Internal Medicine and Medical Specialties, University of Genoa, Viale Benedetto XV6, 16132 Genoa, Italy.
Telephone: +39-10-3538956 Fax: +39-10-3538956
Received: July 26, 2013
Revised: September 10, 2013
Accepted: September 15, 2013
Published online: December 28, 2013

Curcumin is a low-molecular-weight hydrophobic polyphenol that is extracted from turmeric, which possesses a wide range of biological properties including anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-proliferative and anti-microbial activities. Despite its diverse targets and substantial safety, clinical applications of this molecule for digestive disorders have been largely limited to case series or small clinical trials. The poor bioavailability of curcumin is likely the major hurdle for its more widespread use in humans. However, complexation of curcumin into phytosomes has recently helped to bypass this problem, as it has been demonstrated that this new lecithin formulation enables increased absorption to a level 29-fold higher than that of traditional curcuminoid products. This allows us to achieve much greater tissue substance delivery using significantly lower doses of curcumin than have been used in past clinical studies. As curcumin has already been shown to provide good therapeutic results in some small studies of both inflammatory and neoplastic bowel disorders, it is reasonable to anticipate an even greater efficacy with the advent of this new technology, which remarkably improves its bioavailability. These features are very promising and may represent a novel and effective therapeutic approach to both functional and organic digestive diseases.

Keywords: Curcumin, Curcumin-phythosome, Curcumin bioavailability, Digestive disorders

Core tip: Curcumin is a well-established molecule with multiple pharmacological activities, mainly anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative. The major hurdle for a widespread clinical use has been represented by its poor bioavailability, which has been recently overcome by the development of a new formulation combining curcumin with phospholipids (curcumin-phytosome). This compound permits to improve markedly intestinal absorption of curcumin and guarantees a greater tissue delivery than the traditional curcuminoid mixtures. So, curcumin-phythosome has the potential to be exploited in many gastrointestinal diseases, both functional and organic.