Agafonova М.Е.,

Belarusian State University of Physical Culture, Minsk, Republic of Belarus

Abstract: This review presents the results of scientific studies carried out in various countries to study the pharmacological properties and therapeutic potential of curcumin, and the prospects for its use for the treatment and prevention of various pathological conditions and diseases. The possibilities of using food biologically active additives in sports and topical issues of doping are considered.

Key words: dietary supplements, sports, doping, pharmacological properties, therapeutic potential, curcumin.



At present, in order to increase the effectiveness of competitive activity in the international sports arena, various non-doping agents, including some biologically active substances, are actively included in the program of medical and biological support of athletes’ sports training. Compositions of biologically active substances of plant, animal, mineral origin or synthesized substances that are intended for direct intake with food or for introduction into finished food products to correct the functional state of the body are defined as biologically active additives (dietary supplements). According to numerous studies, it has been established that the use of these substances in the form of food dietary supplements is effective for maintaining and stimulating physical performance, optimizing post-exercise recovery processes, increasing resistance to psycho-emotional overload, increasing the speed and accuracy of sensorimotor reactions, for preventing overstrain, diseases and injuries in various kinds of sports [3, 4, 22, 27, 31]. In this regard, it should be noted that the practical use of the results of scientific research on the impact of non-doping biologically active substances on the human body is extremely relevant at the present time, since the issue of the safety of using food additives in sports is considered from the point of view of the list of prohibited substances and methods of the World Anti-Doping Code. [5, 11, 22].

Among the many dietary supplements actively used in the practice of sports medicine, the pharmacological properties of curcumin are well studied and confirmed by a significant number of clinical studies. The spectrum of the revealed activity of this biologically active substance is very extensive. Food supplements containing curcumin are used in the practice of clinical and sports medicine as an effective anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, neuroprotective, detoxifying and antiseptic agent [8, 9, 15, 20, 21, 23]. The use of this biologically active substance in sports is possible as a universal remedy that reduces the level of negative influence of intense physical and psycho-emotional stress on the functional state and health of athletes.

The purpose of the study is to familiarize specialists working in the field of physical culture and sports with the prospects for the use of a biologically active additive curcumin for the prevention and treatment of various pathological conditions and diseases of athletes.

Research methods – analysis of scientific sources of information and scientific and methodological literature devoted to the study of the pharmacological properties of curcumin and the effectiveness of the use of this substance for the correction of the physical condition of athletes.

Research results and discussion.

The composition of turmeric and its bioactive components. Curcumin is a component of the spice turmeric, which is obtained from the rhizome of the tropical perennial plant Curcuma longa L. Turmeric rhizome powder has a multicomponent composition and contains 69.4% carbohydrates, 6.3% protein, 5.1% essential oils, 3.5% mineral components, B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, B9) and vitamins S, K, E. Powder of turmeric rhizomes has long been used not only as a spice seasoning, a natural yellow dye for food, cosmetics and textile products, but also as a universal medicinal raw material. It is known that turmeric powder has been actively used in traditional medicine in China, India, Iran for the prevention of functional disorders of the body and the treatment of various diseases. For example, Ayurveda describes recipes for ointments and decoctions made from turmeric rhizomes, which were used to treat conjunctivitis, bites, burns, non-healing ulcers, purulent wounds, eczema, psoriasis, indigestion, stomach and duodenal ulcers. Turmeric powder has also been used to treat bronchial asthma, chronic rhinitis, cough and sinusitis, liver dysfunctions, anorexia, rheumatism, and diabetic ulcers [9]. The main group of biologically active compounds that determine the bright orange color and determine the many pharmacological properties of turmeric preparations are curcuminoids.
This is a group of flavonoids (plant pigments), consisting of 75% curcumin [1, 7, 9, 26].

Pharmacological properties and therapeutic potential of curcumin. Currently, a large amount of experimental data has been accumulated, which confirms that the main component of turmeric, curcumin, has a high biological activity and a wide spectrum of action. Based on numerous reviews of clinical trials, it seems possible to formulate the main pharmacological properties and therapeutic potential of curcumin:

– antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antiparasitic action. Found bactericidal and bacteriostatic activity of curcumin against some bacteria: Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Salmonella paratyphi, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Escherichia coli. Curcumin preparations enhance macrophage phagocytosis of malaria (Plasmodium falciparum), sleeping sickness (Trypanosoma brucei) and leishmaniasis (Leishmania species). Turmeric extract exhibits antifungal action against Rhizoctonia solani, Phytophthora infestans, Erysiphe graminis, Puccinia recondita, Botrytis cinerea [1, 2].

– anticarcinogenic effect. Antiproliferative, antiangiogenic and antimetastatic properties have been identified in curcumin, as well as the ability to increase the apoptosis of cancer cells and suppress the activation of genes of cancer [2]. The successful use of curcumin in the program of complex treatment of oncological diseases in order to suppress tumor growth in many types of cancer has been confirmed by the results of numerous clinical studies [1, 20, 21, 23];

– antitoxic and radioprotective effect. The ability to suppress the activity of carcinogens and block the action of some toxic substances has been determined [2]. It has been established that the hepatoprotective properties of curcumin are manifested with prolonged intake of curcumin at a dose of 10 mg once a day [10];

– anti-inflammatory activity. Curcumin has the ability to modulate the inflammatory response by suppressing the activity of a number of enzymes and the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines, thereby reducing the severity of the inflammatory process [2, 3, 6, 8, 16]. The therapeutic efficacy of curcumin as an active anti-inflammatory agent has been confirmed in the treatment of acute non-infectious diseases of the respiratory system [25], the musculoskeletal system [4, 19, 26] and skeletal muscles [18, 27], as well as in the program of maintenance therapy for certain chronic autoimmune diseases ( rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune myocarditis) [2].

V. Kuptniratsaikul et al., Comparing the efficacy and safety of taking turmeric extract at a dose of 1,500 mg / day (total curcuminoids 75-85%) and the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen at a dose of 1200 mg / day for 4 weeks in the treatment of osteoarthritis knee joint in 365 people, a significant reduction in pain and an increase in joint mobility was found in 185 people taking curcumin. In this case, the profile of side effects is similar to that of ibuprofen, but with fewer complaints of gastrointestinal disorders (nausea, dyspepsia) [19]. This fact is very important, since long-term use of ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory nonsteroidal drugs causes serious side effects (erosion and ulcerative lesions of the gastrointestinal tract, gastric bleeding and renal dysfunction). The high therapeutic potential of curcumin in the treatment of acute stages of osteoarthritis was also noted in the works of Madhu K., Chanda K., Saji M. J., Perkins K., Sahy W., Beckett R. D. [26, 28]. The above scientific studies demonstrate the safety and high efficiency of using curcumin extract as an alternative option not only for traumatological and orthopedic patients with chronic diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, liver and kidneys, but also for the prevention and treatment of pathology of the musculoskeletal system in athletes.

Reviewed by D. Lelli et al. presents the results of more than 200 clinical studies conducted to study the anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin and the pleiotropic effects of curcumin in the program of complex treatment of patients with pulmonary pathology. Clinicians have repeatedly confirmed the efficacy and safety of the use of turmeric preparations in the treatment of pulmonary diseases characterized by abnormal inflammatory reactions (asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, acute respiratory failure syndrome, pulmonary fibrosis and acute lung injury) [25].

– the antioxidant effect is based on the ability of curcumin to participate in the mechanism of suppressing the inflammatory response, bind active oxygen radicals and prevent oxidative damage to cells [2, 8, 15, 20, 21];

– the immunostimulating effect of curcumin is due to the ability to activate the immune response by acting on immunocompetent (T- and B-lymphocytes) and auxiliary cells of the body (cells of the monocytic-macrophage series, neutrophils, dendritic cells) [2];

– neuroprotective effect. In the work of S. Kulkarni et al., Devoted to the study of the effect of curcumin on the functioning of the brain, indicated that curcumin modulates the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain and increases neurotrophic factors, thereby increasing the functionality and lifespan of neurons [24]. Many researchers note that the unique combination of anti-inflammatory properties, anti-amyloid and antioxidant activities provides a high therapeutic effect of curcumin. It was found that the course intake of curcumin significantly reduces the severity of neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis). Thus, the use of curcumin preparations at a dose of 1 to 4 grams / day for a 6-month course helped to reduce the severity of the manifestation of neurodegenerative diseases – a decrease in the activity of oxidative reactions, immuno-inflammatory response and cognitive (cognitive) deficit in patients with Alzheimer’s disease [6, 17, 21, 20].

In the studies of A. M. R. Siahaan et al. suggested that the inclusion of turmeric extract in the treatment of patients with chronic traumatic encephalopathy could be effective. In studies on laboratory animals, it was found that curcumin actively affects the neurodegenerative process – it significantly reduces the level of Tau protein, with the participation of which a cascade of metabolic disorders arising during the development of neurodegenerative diseases is triggered [33].

– antidepressant activity and anti-stress effect. Epidemiological studies by S. Kulkarni et al. Have shown that people who regularly use turmeric or curcumin supplements in their daily lives have higher cognitive abilities and stable good mood [17, 24]. This bioactive substance has some properties that justify its use for the correction of physical condition in chronic stress and the prevention of depression. It has been found that during chronic stress curcumin inhibits the breakdown of the hormone dopamine and promotes the development of hippocampal neurogenesis, thereby preventing a decrease in serotonin levels. In combination with the above characteristics, the multifactorial anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin effectively prevent the development or progression of depressive syndrome. It has been determined that daily consumption of curcumin at a dose of 5–60 mg / kg under chronic unpredictable stress has a long-lasting anti-stress effect, and when taken at a dose of 20–40 mg / kg, it weakens the manifestations of behavioral changes and biochemical reactions of the body caused by chronic fatigue [24] .

Summing up the analysis of publications devoted to the study of the pharmacological properties and therapeutic potential of curcumin, some advantages of using this biologically active substance for correcting the physical condition of a person are highlighted:

– low toxicity, good tolerance and lack of systemic accumulation of the drug;

– compatibility with both other biologically active substances and with synthetic drugs, which significantly increases the prophylactic and therapeutic effects;

– the possibility of long-term use, which is especially important in the prevention and treatment of metabolic disorders and chronic diseases.

Based on the foregoing, it is obvious that the biologically active substance curcumin can be used to prevent the development of pathological conditions and treat various diseases, as well as to reduce the impact of the effects of intense physical activity on the health of an athlete.

The use of food dietary supplements containing curcumin. Doping issues.

Most scientific studies confirming the positive effects of curcumin relate to the prevention of development and complex treatment of many diseases. It should be noted that acute pathological conditions and diseases that arise in athletes in the course of professional activity are mainly due to intense physical exertion and the impact of various extreme factors of sports (potential risk, complexity and harmfulness of conditions). For example, in cyclic, contact, complex coordination and technical sports, the most common are injuries of the musculoskeletal system, overstrain of the cardiorespiratory system, repeated closed craniocerebral injuries of varying severity, stress immunodeficiencies. The evidence base for the positive effect of a course intake of turmeric and curcumin preparations on the restorative and reparative processes of the body is quite impressive, therefore, we will focus on the sources of curcumin most available for use by athletes:

– Spice “Turmeric” (powder). Taking into account the low bioavailability of the natural complex of curcuminoids in spices for the manifestation of organoprotective properties and the practical elimination of possible side effects, it is recommended to use turmeric powder as a seasoning in food at 2-4 g per day [2]. The experts of the WHO expert committee on food additives recommended dosing the intake of turmeric at the rate of 3 mg / kg of body weight per day [12];

– modern forms of food dietary supplements containing curcumin (capsules, tablets, lozenges). It should be noted that food supplements with curcumin have a high bioavailability, with the manufacturer’s recommended intake doses, good tolerance and minimal signs of toxicity (diarrhea, headache, yellow stools), which can appear only in individuals with individual intolerance. At the same time, the state of health and psychoemotional state of patients does not give a reason to interrupt the course of taking a biologically active supplement [12, 29, 32].

Despite the numerous positive aspects of the use of dietary supplements to correct the functional state of athletes at the stages of training, the intake of food supplements should be under the supervision of a sports physician and with a conclusion of the National Anti-Doping Laboratory on the safety and absence of prohibited substances and substances in the food dietary supplement [11]. It should be recalled that compliance with these conditions is extremely important. According to the National Anti-Doping Agency, a positive doping test may result from the use of dietary supplements, the main active ingredient of which is not a prohibited substance, and the auxiliary components of the food additive may be prohibited for use in sports [13]. For informational purposes only, you can use the services of other countries, where information on the safety of using dietary supplements registered in this country is posted in sports [12]. Considering the above, dietary supplements should not only have proven clinical efficacy, but also not be on the Republican list of substances and methods prohibited in sports. This regulatory document reflects the provisions of the list of prohibited substances and methods of the World Anti-Doping Code.

For example, a biologically active food supplement “KURKULOR” (RPUE “Akadempharm”, Belarus) is a plant extract of turmeric (curcumin 50 mg), which has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and analgesic effects and is used to maintain the physiological functions of the upper respiratory tract [14]. According to the official response of the National Anti-Doping Agency of the Republic of Belarus, no substances prohibited in sports are declared in the curcuLOR supplement. However, in order to ensure the complete anti-doping safety of this dietary supplement for athletes, interested parties must obtain an anti-doping certificate indicating the batch number and taste [5].

Thus, taking into account the recommendations of the experts of the International Olympic Committee on Nutritional Supplements [22] and the results of several dozen clinical studies from different countries, it can be concluded that curcumin can be used as an effective antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and neuroprotective agent, taking into account the provisions of the World anti-doping code.


The presented review of modern sources of information convincingly indicates that curcumin is a promising non-doping complex herbal remedy, the use of which in the practice of sports medicine can solve several problems of medical and biological support for the training of athletes:

– in a timely manner to prevent overvoltage or premorbid state of active functional systems of the body;

– eliminate or reduce the influence of factors limiting performance;

– to speed up the processes of post-exercise recovery.

Thus, taking into account the pleiotropic properties of the active substance of the Curcuma Longa L. plant, it seems appropriate to use curcumin in the form of a food bioactive supplement as a universal antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective agent for the nutritional correction of the physical condition of athletes in various sports.


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