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Curcumin isn't anticatabolic at all - it's anabolic

Curcumin is perhaps the most interesting supplement being written about by scientists right now. True, hardly any research has been done on humans, and the French research that will be published soon in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry is an animal study. But if this animal study confirms that curcumin really has anabolic qualities, we won't be complaining.

Scientists often put a leg of their lab rats in plaster when they want to study muscle growth and breakdown. This causes the muscles to wither, a process which imitates bodily inactivity for the purposes of research. When the plaster cast is removed the muscles start to regain strength. This process is a good way of examining the effect of a load on the muscles, and therefore also the effects of strength training.

The researchers put the hind leg of male rats in a plaster cast for 8 days [I8]. They then removed the cast and monitored the muscle recovery for 10 days [R10]. Half of the rats were given a daily injection containing 1 mg curcumin per kg bodyweight; the other half received a placebo.

During the I8 period, the curcumin had no effect, but during the R10 period the injections boosted the growth of muscle mass. The researchers measured the circumference of the muscles in the calf muscles [CSA] by doing scans. So curcumin is not so much an anticatabolic; rather it is anabolic.

Curcumin isn't anticatabolic at all  it's anabolic

The figure below shows that curcumin had no effect on the uibiquitin-proteasome complex, a mechanism that steers the muscle-protein breakdown machinery. It did inhibit chymotrypsine though. Chymotrypsine is an enzyme that cuts protein up into pieces. This effect was so weak, however, that it did not inhibit muscle breakdown in the I8 phase.

Curcumin isn't anticatabolic at all  it's anabolic

Curcumin isn't anticatabolic at all  it's anabolic

Curcumin isn't anticatabolic at all  it's anabolic

So curcumin's mechanism is not the usual anticatabolic one. The figure above shows how it apparently does work: curcumin boosts the production of the anti-suicide protein XIAP during the R10 phase. As a result suicide enzymes like caspase-3 become less active.

"Curcumin treatment increased muscle XIAP protein levels during reloading above basal levels", the researchers conclude. "This antiapoptotic protein has been recently reported to restrict the apoptotic pathway in skeletal muscle under differentiation. [PLoS ONE 4(3): e5097.] These observations suggest that curcumin may improve muscle recovery and differentiation/regeneration processes."

J Nutr Biochem. 2011 Apr 14. [Epub ahead of print].

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