Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Turmeric boosts glucose uptake in muscle cells

Just a couple of capsules of curcumin the active ingredient in turmeric [Curcuma longa] can radically boost the amount of glucose that muscle cells take up.

Diabetes-2 has become a widespread disease in Korea as well, so Korean pharmacologists are looking for substances that help cells to absorb more glucose. Researchers at the Gyeongsang National University have discovered in experiments with mouse muscle cells that curcumin enhances the effect of insulin.

Insulin is released if there are many glucose molecules circulating in the blood. The hormone forces cells to absorb these glucose molecules. Diabetes-2 sufferers are less sensitive to insulin.

The more curcumin the muscle cells were exposed to, the more glucose they absorbed. Half an hour after exposure the relative amount of active acetyl-CoA carboxylase [p-ACC] and AMPK-alpha [p-AMPK-a] in the muscle cells increases. Muscle cells activate AMPK when muscle fibres contract. AMPK stimulates the uptake of glucose, but also kicks in protective mechanisms and fat burning.

Turmeric boosts glucose uptake in muscle cells

Turmeric boosts glucose uptake in muscle cells

Insulin raises the activity of GLUT4, as does AMPK. GLUT4 is a transport protein that delivers glucose to the cell. If you expose a muscle cell to insulin and curcumin, then the GLUT4 activity increases by more, as is shown in the figure below.

Turmeric boosts glucose uptake in muscle cells

Insulin deactivates AMPK, but apparently curcumin prevents this from happening.

Intensive exercise stimulates AMPK. That's why the intake of simple 'fast' carbs during and after training helps many athletes. Because sugars also deactivate AMPK via insulin, curcumin supplementation may enhance the benefit of the strategy even more.


Can you put curcumin in an energy drink?

Food Chem Toxicol. 2010 Aug-Sep;48(8-9):2366-73.