Turmeric and DHA

Turmeric is about 5% curcumins by weight, or it takes about 20 grams of turmeric to get 1 gram of curcumins.



But you can’t go eating it by the spoonful because: 1) that’s nasty; 2) it’s messy and stains everything yellow; and 3) it’s not bioavailable, like, at all.


2g curcumin vs. 2g curcumin + 20mg piperine:



Fortunately, bioavailability is drastically increased by black pepper &/or dietary fat.  For this reason, most curcumin supps contain either piperine or some sort of lipids.  I’m not a big fan of piperine because it seems to non-selectively increase the absorption of tons of things – and there are some things we don’t absorb for a reason: they’re toxic… so I’d rather just use a little pepper and take it with some seafood.




Why turmeric?


It’s very safe (eg, Chainani-Wu et al., 2003) and there seems to be nothing curcumin can’t do…


Why turmeric & seafood?


Synergistic anti-inflammatory effect (Saw et al., 2010).  Also, being rich in fat, seafood should increase curcumin bioavailability.


Curcumin & DHA kill breast, pancreatic, and colon cancer cells (Altenburg et al., 2010, Swamy et al., 2011, & Fenton et al., 2013) (probably others, too).



And most importantly,


Curcumin boosts DHA in the brain: implications for the prevention of anxiety disorders (Wu et al., 2015)!  It does this by actually increasing the enzymes involved in converting alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) into DHA.  Normally, this conversion is poor: in the figure below, feeding ALA alone had no effect on brain DHA, but combined with curcumin caused a 50% increase!



Curcumin also inhibits lipid peroxidation.  Win-win.



My advice (since I generally assume most people are DHA deficient) (sorry): add some turmeric & pepper to your mayonnaise or salad dressing or something.  Due to the synergistic nature, it doesn’t have to be a lot*.

*actual dose?  I don’t know.  If taken consistently, with black pepper & dietary fat, with meals, might be just a few grams.

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  • TechnoTriticale

    So for people who are already getting say, 3 or more grams/day of ?3DHA+EPA per day; they would get the full benefit of the turmeric (curcumin), no piperine required, but optionally add pepper to taste.

    re: “…since I generally assume most people are DHA deficient…”

    That would seem to be the wider problem, which is endemic for vegetarians. Is it thought that curcumin might materially improve DHA status in those getting their ?3 largely as ALA? Or would they still be getting too much ALA? (leaving aside the issue of how much EPA might be essential)

    Kudos for linking to one of the very few mayos on the market that aren’t a toxic dose of ?6LA, sugar and preservatives.

    • “So for people who are already getting say, 3 or more grams/day of
      ?3DHA+EPA per day; they would get the full benefit of the turmeric
      (curcumin), no piperine required”

      there is virtually no benefit of turmeric if it’s taken w/o something to enhance curcumin bioavailability


      • John Smith

        i have a salt shaker of half and half turmeric/black pepper. it’s great.

        • that’s a great idea!

        • BChristine

          I do the same; have been using it this way for years. I add it to tempeh, along with a little coconut oil in the pan. Awesome flavor 🙂

  • Emmie

    I am trying to control the pain of extreme osteoarthritis without meds, and a friend told me that she had great results from turmeric capsules. I’ve been using them (contain pepper and I take with food) for about 2 weeks now, and I really think they’re working well. I have my fingers crossed that this is the answer because I would love to reduce pain more naturally.

  • Tim Lundeen

    I don’t like pepperdine either, good call. But pepper contains pepperdine as the active ingredient, so don’t see that as OK either.

    It seems like turmeric tincture should be much more bio-available than the ground root, but I can’t find any references to support this…

  • Kim Rivers

    I mix turmeric or curry powder with duck fat and have a TB of the concoction with my eggs in the morning instead of butter. Sea salt and pepper sprinkled on top and tastes awesome.

    • sounds delish and definitely curcumin bioavailability boosted

  • After spending 13 years in India, we retained the habit of using turmeric in at least one dish of each meal… We use the powder in combination with freshly grinded black pepper (and herbs) on top of roasted meat or fish, but we also mix fresh turmeric slices with fresh ginger in vegetable dishes. The taste is wonderful even for people unaccustomed to spicy food.

  • Stuart

    I like to melt some fat cheese in the microwave with a little of turmeric. Then I smash an avocado on the top.

  • Mark Phillips

    I am preparing to do a batch of fermented fresh turmeric, which will likely be some combination of carrot, ginger, and turmeric. I may also try one batch with black pepper, and another without (so that the pepper can be added in at the time of consumption for bio-availability).

    Why do this?

    Well, for one, I am obsessed with lacto-fermentation. It makes food delicious, so there’s that.

    Two, it appears to enhance digestion of vegetables and bioavailability of their nutrients. Here are two studies that explore the effects of fermentation on Turmeric:



    As a layperson these are largely imprehensible to me, besides the general understanding that the health effects appear to increase with fermentation.

    If anyone has further comments or research on this I would be delighted to receive your input. I’d also be curious to hear thoughts on recipes for maximal health benefit: is carrots, ginger and turmeric misguided? Should I be doing cabbage and turmeric, for example? What else could I explore?

  • alan2102

    “I’m not a big fan of piperine because it seems to non-selectively
    increase the absorption of tons of things – and there are some things we don’t absorb for a reason: they’re toxic”

    The logic escapes me. We WANT to absorb the stuff we eat. If we’re that worried about absorption of incidental toxins, then good idea to take absorption-inhibitors or adsorbents (charcoal, clay, cholestyramine, etc.) with every meal? I don’t think so. Take pepper, enhance goodies absorption, don’t worry too much about toxins (at least not right then), be happy.

  • BooBooBaby

    I take the Turmeric supplement pills on a Daily basis. Is that just as good!?

    • yes, as long as you take it with a pepper-containing meal (or has a little piperine in it)