The cardiac effects of curcumin
A study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology  has found that curcumin, commonly found in curries, is effective at improving cardiac function and may have potential in treating patients who have had a heart attack.
Curcumin is the natural yellow pigment found in the plant curcuma longa and is the principal component of the spice, turmeric. It has previously been shown to have a variety of beneficial effects, such as being antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antifibrotic. Although curcumin is known to prevent the development of myocardial cell hypertrophy and hypertension-induced heart failure, it was not known whether it could promote cardiac repair and function through the modulation of the degradation of the extracellular matrix and collagen synthesis. The results published this month by Wang et. al.  suggest that curcumin not only enhances cardiac function, but that this is also associated with a way of balancing the degradation of extracellular matrix and collagen synthesis in infracted myocardium.
It was hypothesised that curcumin serves to attenuate maladaptive cardiac repair, as well as improve cardiac function following ischaemia and reperfusion through reduced degradation of extracellular matrix and inhibition of collagen synthesis. In order to test this, the team subjected rats to 45 minutes of ischaemia, then 7, 21 and 42 days of reperfusion respectively. During reperfusion, the rats were also given curcumin orally, at a dose of 150mg/kg/day. Curcumin was found to have several effects, including inhibiting extracellular matrix degradation and attenuating collagen deposition by reducing the extent of collagen-rich scar and increasing the mass of viable myocardium. Echocardiography also revealed a much-improved left ventricular end-diastolic volume, stroke volume and ejection fraction; the wall thickness of the infracted middle anterior septum in rats that had been fed curcumin was also greater in comparison to the control group.
The team concluded that curcumin was indeed an effective inhibitor of maladaptive cardiac repair, as well as being able to preserve cardiac function after ischaemia and reperfusion, thus making it a potential treatment for patients following myocardial infarction. Death and disability following a heart attack are a major public health issue, and the usual course of action for such patients is either percutaneous coronary intervention or coronary artery bypass graft surgery. The reported findings may eventually lead to the use of curcumin as a safe alternative to such interventions, with potential to be used in combination with existing conventional therapies such as statins and ACE inhibitors.