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Spicing up your workout

Curcumin supplementation likely attenuates delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)

Study under review: Curcumin supplementation likely attenuates delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)

Introduction

Curcumin is probably best known as a component of the herb turmeric. Turmeric contains 2–5%[1] curcuminoids such as curcumin and its related compounds, methoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin. Curcuminoids are phenolic compounds that give turmeric (and curry) its yellow color, and have been in use as a remedy in Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for several millennia. In recent years, biomedical research has shown that curcuminoids elicit multiple biological effects that are relevant to human health, including anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-cancer, antidepressive, and antidiabetic properties.

A search for “curcumin clinical trial” in PubmedPMID: 0 yields no fewer than 273 hits, underscoring the scientific interest in the biological activity of this chemical. Doing the same kind of search for cinnamon or even resveratrol yields less than half that number, which shows that interest in curcumin is strong within the research community.

Scientific interest in curcuminoids started in the 1980s, when studies showed that the administration of curcuminoids decreased the physiological markers of inflammation and improved morning stiffness, walking time, and swelling in patients with rheumatoid arthritis while also reducing postoperative pain[2]. Recent research has also shown some of the mechanisms through which they work. For example, curcuminoids have been shown to increase expression[3] and activity of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPAR-gamma), which mediates anti-inflammatory and glucose uptake processes. Curcuminoids are also potent antioxidants[4], a property which may protect DNA from oxidation damage. Also, they inhibit activation of nuclear factor kappa B (NFkappaB), which further contributes to their anti-inflammatory effects. Furthermore, they inhibit nitric oxide[4] (NO) production through inhibition of inducible and endothelial nitric oxide synthase (iNOS and eNOS), which may also mediate anti-inflammatory effects.

It is very well known that unaccustomed physical activity results in sore muscles, affectionately referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) amongst gym goers. Exercise performed in a way to which you are not accustomed, in terms of load or intensity, range of motion, or degree of muscular fatigue, will result in some muscle damage. The majority of this damage is induced during the eccentric phase of movement, e.g., when “yielding” to gravity and descending in squats. The muscle damage is characterized physiologically by soreness, tenderness, reduced strength, reduced stretch tolerance, swelling, and increases in plasma creatine kinase (CK) and sometimes even plasma myoglobin. All of these biomarkers normally peak 1–2 days after the inducing exercise bout and usually last no more than 3–5 days.

This pattern underscores that the muscle damage phenomenon is not just a mechanical tearing damage, but a progressive biochemical phenomenon. The general process is depicted in Figure 1. At a cellular level, these effects are usually explained by membrane disruption of muscle fibers and subsequent invasion of neutrophils, monocytes, and natural killer (NK) cells secreting cytokines, resulting in pain sensation, localized edema, and increased temperature. However, it should be noted that this process is very complex and in reality, it's poorly understood.

Figure 1: The development of DOMS

Thus, the purpose of the current study was to examine if and to what extent a curcumin supplement prevented the muscle damage and soreness induced by a heavy eccentric exercise bout.

Exercised-induced muscle damage involves some inflammatory processes that may contribute to DOMS. Since curcumin is known to have anti-inflammatory properties, the effect of curcumin on DOMS was investigated.

Who and what was studied?

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Other Articles in Issue #07 (May 2015)