In an article published on November 21, 2018 in the Journal of Applied Physiology, University of Nebraska Medical Center researchers reported the outcome of a study which suggests that curcumin, a compound occurring in the spice turmeric, could help heart failure patients with exercise intolerance.
“We hypothesized that reduced expression of nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) in skeletal muscle contributes to impaired exercise performance,” explain Ahmed M. Wafi and colleagues. “We further hypothesized that curcumin, a Nrf2 activator, would preserve or increase exercise capacity in heart failure.”
“Although curcumin has been evaluated in several clinical trials for multiple diseases, its therapeutic potential on skeletal muscle dysfunction in the heart failure with reduced ejection fraction state has not been tested in animal models or in patients,” they noted.
Using a mouse model of heart failure with reduced ejection fraction, the researchers gave one group of animals curcumin daily for 12 weeks while another group received no curcumin. Additional groups of healthy mice received the same regimens. Exercise capacity, muscle function and enzyme expression in muscle fiber samples were examined in all four groups before and after treatment.
Curcumin-treated mice with heart failure experienced improvement in exercise capacity, muscle function, Nrf2 activation, and levels of the antioxidant enzymes heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) and superoxide dismutase (SOD)2. Curcumin also upregulated Nrf2, HO-1, and SOD2 expression in mice that did not have heart failure, which suggests that curcumin enhances antioxidant defenses even in healthy muscle.
“In the present study, we demonstrated that eight weeks of curcumin treatment improved exercise performance, increased whole body pulling tension, and ameliorated the skeletal myopathy in mice with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction, suggesting a potential application of curcumin in skeletal muscle dysfunction associated with heart failure,” the authors concluded.