The Watchdog Series is back.
This time, we're highlighting the unethical use of synthetic curcumin made from petroleum products.
That's right, some shady supplement companies are hiding petroleum in "health-products" and calling it curcumin.
Taking turmeric or curcumin? Here's what you need to know.
Turmeric and/or curcumin supplements are among the best-selling natural products in the supplement industry.
But taking turmeric may be a waste of time.
Curcumin is the beneficial, bioactive compound in turmeric, but turmeric is only 3% by weight.
So 100 grams of turmeric, will only deliver 3g curcumin.
Studies showing benefits of curcumin used 9-12 grams of curcumin powder.
So to get the beneficial dose of curcumin, you would have to ingest 900-1200 grams of turmeric.
If you're taking this as a supplement, forget turmeric. Make sure you're taking curcumin.
Then, we need to focus on absorption rates. Curcumin is widely known to have poor absorption rates in the body.
Much has been done to improve these absorption rates - including taking black pepper with curcumin. New advances however, have show that converting curcumin into liquid micelles increases absorption by 185X compared to traditional curcumin powders.
This increase in bioavailability delivers the health benefits of 12-15 grams of curcumin in a 100mg softgel.
We previously discussed these curcumin micelles, their structure, and high absorption rates on this blog post.
Watchdog: Synthetic Curcumin Made From Petroleum
Here's where it gets scary.
Synthetic curcumin made from petroleum based products was recently found to be used as an additive on a large scale.
Not only is this practice unethical, it obviously lacks record of long-term, safe use and evidence of being as good as natural curcumin.
Think about it, how the heck could you "create" the health promoting properties of curcumin in a compound derived from something like petroleum that is not curcumin?
How Are They Testing?
Since scientists know that synthetic curcumin is derived from petroleum-based products, they developed a test based on radiocarbon dating analysis to show that 100% of the synthetic material corresponds to fossil fuel-derived material.
Natural curcumin does not.
If a product is partially natural but synthetic curcumin is added to “stretch” the content, the test will detect this as well. The test result will show a percentage that corresponds to fossil fuel and the percentage that does not.
Results of radiocarbon testing by University of Georgia Center for Applied Isotope Studies determined that commercially available samples of Curcumin sold by Bayir Extracts (one of the largest industry suppliers) was 43% synthetic.
Further analysis of three additional batches of Bayir’s Curcumin material have been released by the University of Georgia’s Center for Applied Isotope Studies:
- Batch: BE/CUR/14015 32% synthetic
- Batch: BE/CUR/P/14016 43% synthetic
- Batch: BE/CUR/14017 Totally natural
- Batch: BE/CUR/14018 45% synthetic
This is a common and very serious problem - ingredient suppliers have been masquerading synthetics as natural botanicals because it's much cheaper to produce.
Watchdog agencies around the world are taking notice and taking action.
India is moving to ban synthetic curcumin 
The European agency EuroPharma is doing the same. 
The US is catching on as well. 
Here's what the FDA says on the matter:
"FDA views synthetic versions of botanical compounds to be different from the botanical itself, thus a supplier of such material would be required to file an NDI (new dietary ingredient) notification with FDA, including proof of safety, for the products to be legally sold in the United States. Given that an NDI on synthetic curcumin was already rejected by FDA, the illegal status of synthetic curcumin is established."
Since the use of this synthetic curcumin has been rejected by the FDA, companies using it in their products are doing so illegally.
What You Can Do
The actions of these companies are unethical, illegal, and potentially harmful.
Worst of all, they're not disclosing this information on supplement labels.
Learn to read the labels and de-code the ways they can hide this information from you.
- Always look for the word "Natural". By law, the regulatory agencies require products that use this verbiage to actually be natural. It's not a guarantee for you the consumer, but it's a start.
- Only trust companies that use reveal their sources and formulations. This "open-source" practice is not one followed by companies with something to hide.
- Look for independent, 3rd party testing that verifies the label claims of products you take.
If you find a product, or company, that gives you all three of these, there's a strong chance you're getting exactly what you want and nothing that you don't want.
That's our mission and our philosophy.
We're stopping at nothing to make this the new standard in the supplement industry.