Like Curry? New Biological Role For Curcumin Identified

Oregon State University (OSU) scientists recently identified a new reason why some curry dishes, made with spices humans have used for thousands of years, might be good for you. New research has discovered that curcumin, a compound found in the cooking spice turmeric, can cause a modest but measurable increase in levels of a protein that’s known to be important in the “innate” immune system, helping to prevent infection in humans and other animals.

Tumeric Rood and Powder, Source of CurcuminThis cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide (CAMP) is part of what helps the immune system fight off various bacteria, viruses or fungi even though they hadn’t been encountered before. Prior to this, it was known that CAMP levels were increased by vitamin D. Discovery of an alternative mechanism to influence or raise CAMP levels is of scientific interest and could open new research avenues in nutrition and pharmacology, scientists said.

The newest findings were made by researchers in the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU and published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, in collaboration with scientists from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

“This research points to a new avenue for regulating CAMP gene expression,” said Adrian Gombart, associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the Linus Pauling Institute. “It’s interesting and somewhat surprising that curcumin can do that, and could provide another tool to develop medical therapies.”

The impact of curcumin in this role is not nearly as potent as that of vitamin D, Gombart said, but could nonetheless have physiologic value. Curcumin has also been studied for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

“Curcumin, as part of turmeric, is generally consumed in the diet at fairly low levels,” he said. “However, it’s possible that sustained consumption over time may be healthy and help protect against infection, especially in the stomach and intestinal tract.”

In the study, Chunxiao Guo, a graduate student, and Gombart looked at the potential of both curcumin and omega-3 fatty acids to increase expression of the CAMP gene. They found no particular value with the omega-3 fatty acids for this purpose, but curcumin did have a clear effect, causing CAMP levels to almost triple.

There has been intense scientific interest in the vitamin D receptor in recent years because of potential therapeutic benefits in treating infection, cancer, psoriasis and other diseases, the researchers noted in their report. An alternative way to elicit a related biological response could be significant and merits additional research, they said.

The CAMP peptide is the only known antimicrobial peptide of its type in humans, researchers said. It appears to have the ability to kill a broad range of bacteria, including those that cause tuberculosis and protect against the development of sepsis.

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Vitamin D Levels Tied to Lung Health

Serum vitamin D levels had a significant positive correlation with pulmonary function, most prominently in patients with a history of tuberculosis (TB), data from a large cross-sectional study showed.

Patients with the highest serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OHD) had significantly higher forced expiratory volume at 1 second (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FVC) as compared with patients who had the lowest levels of 25-OHD (P<0.001 and P<0.005, respectively), reported Churl-Min Kim, MD, PhD, of the Catholic University of Korea in Seoul, and colleagues.

In the subgroup of patients with a history of pulmonary tuberculosis, the absolute difference in FEV1 by 25-OHD level was four times greater than the difference in the overall population, they wrote in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

“We found a robust positive association between serum 25(OH)D level and lung function in Korean adults. This association was independent of age, sex, body mass index (BMI), lifestyle (smoking and regular exercise), occupation, residence, season, and some respiratory diseases,” they explained.

With regard to the findings in the TB subpopulation, the authors speculated that the results suggest “that the susceptibility of pulmonary TB might be related to vitamin D deficiency and also that vitamin D therapy may be beneficial for lung function in this population.”

“The precise mechanism for this phenomenon remains unknown, but it has been suggested that vitamin D accelerates recovery from infection by enhancing innate immunity via upregulation of antimicrobial peptides,” they added.

Observational studies of vitamin D and respiratory function have yielded mixed results. Clinical trials of vitamin D supplements as prophylaxis against respiratory disease also failed to demonstrate a definitive association, the authors said.

Current recommendations for 25-OHD intake are based on maintenance of bone health, not optimization of immunologic and other nonskeletal outcomes.

Previous studies of 25-OHD and pulmonary function focused primarily on Western populations so Kim’s group sought to examine the association in a large Asian population.

Data for the analysis came from the third and fourth Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (2008 to 2010). Pulmonary function and serum 25-OHD levels were assessed during the surveys, and the final analysis included 10,096 participants who had complete data for both outcomes.

Serum 25-OHD measurements showed that 636 participants had values <10 ng/mL, 5,384 had values of 10 to 20 ng/mL, 3,274 had values of 20 to 30 ng/mL, and 802 had values ≥30 ng/mL. The median values were 20.6 ng/mL for men and 17.5 ng/mL for women. Overall, 59% of the participants had 25-OHD levels <20 ng/mL.

The participants were grouped into quartiles of 25-OHD levels, ranging from <15.3 ng/mL to ≥24.9 ng/mL for men and from <12.8 to ≥21.4 ng/mL for women.

After controlling for age, sex, height, and season (of 25-OHD measurement), the authors found significant associations between 25-OHD level and pulmonary function. Comparing the highest and lowest quartiles of 25-OHD, Kim and colleagues found differences of 51 mL for FEV1 and 58 mL for FVC. The trend remained after adjustment for smoking and exercise, BMI, occupation, region, and history of asthma, pulmonary TB, and obstructive lung disease.

Serum levels of 25-OHD did not vary significantly in patients with a history of asthma, but participants with obstructive lung disease or pulmonary TB had significantly lower levels compared with participants who did not have either condition (P<0.05).

Comparing the top and bottom quartiles of 25-OHD, the authors found a difference of 229 mL for FEV1 in the subgroup of participants with a history of pulmonary TB (P<0.01).

The study had some limitations, namely that it was cross-sectional so reverse causality could not be ruled out. Also, the overall low 25-OHD levels in the participants limited the authors’ ability to adequately estimate optimal vitamin D levels for lung function. Finally, data on sun exposure and dietary or supplementary vitamin D intake were not available.

The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Vitamin D Key For Kidneys

Vitamin D deficiency may decrease kidney function in transplant recipients, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN). The finding suggests that vitamin D supplementation may help improve the health of kidney transplant recipients.

Nutrition News Vitamin DVitamin D deficiency is prevalent in patients with kidney failure. It’s not clear how this affects patients after they receive a kidney transplant. To investigate, Frank Bienaimé, MD (Université Paris Descartes and INSERM and Assistance Publique Hopitaux de Paris) and his colleagues studied a group of 634 kidney recipients who underwent transplantation between January 2005 and June 2010.

The researchers found that low vitamin D levels measured at three months after transplantation were linked with lower kidney function and increased kidney scarring at 12 months post-transplant. Other hormones involved with mineral metabolism were not predictors of kidney function or scarring after one year.

“This result suggests that maintaining vitamin D concentration within the normal range would prevent renal function deterioration after renal transplantation,” said Dr. Bienaimé. “Vitamin D supplementation, a simple and inexpensive treatment, may improve transplantation outcomes.” He encouraged the design of randomized controlled trials to evaluate the potential of vitamin D supplements to maintain kidney function following transplantation.

JASN ASN.2012060614

Vitamin D Supplements May Help Blacks Lower Blood Pressure

Vitamin D supplements significantly reduced blood pressure in the first large controlled study of African-Americans, researchers report in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.


Blood Pressure_coverIn the prospective trial, a three-month regimen of daily vitamin D increased circulating blood levels of vitamin D and resulted in a decrease in systolic blood pressure ranging from .7 to four mmHg (depending upon the dose given), compared with no change in participants who received a placebo.

Systolic blood pressure, the top and highest number in a reading, is pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. Diastolic blood pressure, the bottom and lower number, is pressure in the arteries between heart beats.

“Although this needs to be studied further, the greater prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among African-Americans may explain in part some of the racial disparity in blood pressure,” said John P. Forman, M.D., M.Sc., lead author of the study and Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Renal Division and Kidney Clinical Research Institute at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mass.

African-Americans have higher rates of hypertension and lower levels of circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D (vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol) than the rest of the U.S. population. Few studies have included enough African-Americans to determine whether vitamin D supplements might reduce the racial disparity.

To explore this, researchers from seven major teaching hospitals conducted a four-arm, randomized, double-blinded study of 250 black adults. They tested blood pressure after a three-month regimen of daily vitamin D supplementation at one of three doses, and compared the findings with a group taking placebo vitamins:

  • Taking 1,000 units of vitamin D each day for three months was associated with a .7 mm Hg decrease in systolic blood pressure.
  • Taking 2,000 units was linked to a 3.4 mm Hg decrease.
  • Taking 4,000 units netted a 4 mm Hg drop.
  • Participants taking placebo supplements had an average increase of 1.7 mm Hg.

“The gains we saw were significant but modest,” Forman said. Vitamin D

Furthermore, diastolic blood pressure didn’t change in any of the four groups.

In prospective studies, lower blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D have been independently linked with an increased risk of developing hypertension.

“If vitamin D supplementation lowered blood pressure among African-Americans, its widespread use could have major public health benefits,” said Andrew T. Chan, M.D., M.P.H., co-author of the study and Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Co-authors are: Jamil B. Scott, M.P.H., Ph.D.; Kimmie Ng, M.D., M.P.H.; Bettina F. Drake, Ph.D., M.P.H.; Elizabeth Gonzalez Suarez, M.A.; Douglas L. Hayden, M.A.; Gary G. Bennett, Ph.D.; Paulette D. Chandler, M.D., M.P.H.; Bruce W. Hollis, Ph.D.; Karen M. Emmons, Ph.D.; Edward L. Giovannucci, M.D., Sc.D.; and Charles S. Fuchs, M.D., M.P.H.

Full bibliographic information The American Heart Association journal Hypertension.
Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation on Blood
Pressure in Blacks
DOI: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.111.00659

National MS Society Reports Sweeping Advances Made in MS Research During 2012

NEW YORK, Dec. 27, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The National MS Society supported new and ongoing initiatives to propel efforts to restore function to people with MS through its Discovery and Fast Forward research programs.


  • New studies into the potential of adult skin cells and umbilical cord cells as a source of nervous system repair cells;
  • A new pilot research program to tap MS-specific funds from the Illinois Lottery, with a focus on nervous system repair and novel rehabilitation approaches;
  • Cutting-edge research to discover new targets to stimulate myelin repair and early testing of new approaches to treating MS symptoms;
  • Clinical trials testing the ability of cannabis to treat spasticity, aspirin to fight fatigue, and innovative rehabilitation and exercise programs aimed at improving mobility, fatigue, spasticity and cognitive problems;
  • A study using advanced MRI analysis to determine how the brain regions associated with pain are affected by MS.

Other important 2012 results toward restoring function include:

Nervous System Protection and Repair

First trial of experimental anti-LINGO to stimulate myelin repair – This first human phase I trial of BIIB033 (Biogen Idec), an immune antibody that inhibits LINGO-1, involved 64 healthy adult volunteers and 42 people with relapsing or secondary-progressive MS. There were no serious adverse events; headache was the most frequently adverse event reported. The authors concluded that the results support advancing this myelin repair strategy into a phase II clinical trial. Reported at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting

Trial of patients’ own adult stem cells appear safe and hints of benefit Researchers in the UK published results of a small clinical trial involving 10 people with secondary-progressive MS, reporting that injecting a person’s own bone marrow stem cells appeared safe and possibly beneficial in helping to protect the nervous system from injury. Further trials are now underway to establish its safety and potential benefit.

Collaboration to find new therapies to repair the nervous system in people with MS – Fast Forward is funding research at the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh, UK to screen for compounds that can stimulate myelin repair in MS. The project grew out of findings from a Nervous System Repair and Protection Initiative funded through the Society’s Promise 2010 campaign.

Rehabilitation and Managing Symptoms

Study suggests balance/eye movement training improves MS symptoms University of Colorado researchers found that a 6-week balance and eye movement-focused exercise program improved balance, reduced fatigue, and reduced disability due to dizziness or disequilibrium, lasting for at least 4 weeks. A larger and longer study is now getting underway with National MS Society support.

Rehabilitation technique improves memory Learning and memory improved in people with MS with a technique that uses stories and imagery to cement learning. This was accompanied by increased activation of areas in the brain related to memory and learning. The Kessler Foundation Research Center investigation was funded in part by the Society’s Mentor-Based Postdoctoral Fellowship program in rehabilitation research.

Hotter days may make mental tasks harder This Society-co-funded study, which needs further exploration, may help people plan activities and may improve the design of future clinical trials. The study was done by Victoria Leavitt, PhD, and colleagues through a Mentor-based rehabilitation postdoctoral fellowship award to John DeLuca, PhD at the Kessler Foundation Research Center in West Orange, NJ.

Weight training improves walking and quality of life in small study of women with MS – The University of Arizona/University of Georgia study, funded by the National MS Society, used standard measures to evaluate the effects of the progressive resistance program, along with in-depth interviews to determine effects on quality of life.

Fast Forward and Concert Pharmaceuticals collaborate on MS spasticity and pain – the new collaboration funds the preclinical advancement of C-21191, a substance with the potential for treating spasticity and pain in MS. Fast Forward is committing up to $750,000 to help its advancement toward clinical trials.

Small study reports benefit of marijuana on MS spasticity California investigators found some benefit of smoked marijuana against spasticity and pain in people with MS in a small clinical trial. Participants also experienced reduced thinking ability after smoking marijuana, highlighting the need for research on cannabis products or other treatments that can more selectively reduce painful symptoms without producing adverse effects on cognitive function. Additional research is being supported by the Society and others.

Study suggests Latinos with MS experience worse pain and other symptoms – A National MS Society-supported study at the Mississippi State University found that a sample of Hispanics/Latinos with MS reported more pain, fatigue, cognitive problems, mental health problems, and dissatisfaction with their access to mental health care than the general MS population, calling attention to the need for more accessible and culturally relevant mental health and social services.

CCSVI research continues –

Progress Toward Ending Multiple Sclerosis Forever

To drive efforts to understand what triggers MS and ways to prevent it, the Society:

  • Convened an international summit on vitamin D in MS;
  • Renewed funding for an enhanced MS DNA core resource bank to foster better understanding of genes that make people susceptible to MS and may also control the course of an individual’s MS.
  • Supported several new research projects aimed at:
    • Understanding how risk factors such as vitamin D levels and genes to contribute to a person’s susceptibility to developing MS
    • investigating how bacteria that naturally live in the human body, including in the intestines, may influence MS susceptibility and disease activity
  • Launched a new, $100,000 annual cash prize to recognize scientists whose inventive work is propelling measurable MS research progress. The Barancik Prize for Innovation in MS Research is the largest ever cash prize for MS research, and is made possible by the generosity of the Charles and Margery Barancik SO Foundation.

Other important 2012 results toward ending MS include:

Breakthrough in understanding gene activities – A government-supported, global study called the ENCODE project has mapped out specific biological functions of more than 80% of the human genome (genetic material), bringing into sharper focus the complex controls over the turning on and turning off of genetic information within cells. This leap-frog advance will greatly enhance efforts to understand the influence of genes on human diseases like MS.

Studies further understanding of vitamin D and MS risk

How Epstein-Barr virus may play role in MS This virus has been linked to increased risk for MS. In active brain lesions in people who had MS in their lifetimes, an international team found high levels of a chemical that helps the body fight viruses, and nearby, immune B cells latently (inactively) infected by Epstein-Barr virus. There was no sign of active viral infection. This may point to a possible mechanism for how the virus might indirectly stimulate MS disease activity.

Lives were changed in 2012 with the introduction of a second oral MS therapy, the launch of new collaborative research efforts, and significant results of recent studies promising more options in 2013 for people living with MS.


About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis, an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system, interrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.  Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 400,000 people in the U.S. and over 2.1 million worldwide.

About the National Multiple Sclerosis Society

The National MS Society addresses the challenges of each person affected by MS. To fulfill this mission, the Society funds cutting-edge research, drives change through advocacy, facilitates professional education, collaborates with MS organizations around the world, and provides programs and services designed to help people with MS and their families move forward with their lives.  In 2011 alone, through its national office and 50-state network of chapters, the Society devoted $164 million to programs and services that assisted more than one million people. To move us closer to a world free of MS, the Society also invested $40 million to support more than 325 new and ongoing research projects around the world. The Society is dedicated to achieving a world free of MS. Join the movement at

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