Secondary Plant Metabolites


Curcumin is the yellow pigment derived from the rhizome of the plant turmeric (Curcuma longa), a major component in the spice curry, and frequently used as a natural colorant (E 100) by the food industry. Curcumin is a bis-α, β-unsaturated β-diketone with two ferulic acid moieties joined by a methylene bridge and known for its potent antioxidant and antiinflammatory activities.

In the frame of the BMBF-project "Novel strategies for the enhancement of the potency of nutraceuticals with low oral bioavailability and their application in novel functional foods for optimum protection of the aging brain"  and in close collaboration with the lab of Jan Frank, we are testing the hypothesis, that consumption of the curry constituent curcumin reduces oxidative stress and prevents the age-dependent mitochondrial dysfunction in brain cells. 

Mitochondrial dysfunction is characterized by a decrease in mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) and ATP production and represents an early event in aging and age-related neuronal cell death. An excess production of reactive species is thought to contribute to mitochondrial dysfunction and, consequently, dietary antioxidants may be protective. Our data indicate that curcumin functioned as an antioxidant and dose-dependently increased MMP in dissociated murine brain cells. 


Curcumin intake did not alter MDA concentrations but reversed the age-dependent decline in MMP and ATP production observed in SAMP8 mice fed a curcumin-free control diet. Curcumin feeding did not alter mitochondrial membrane fluidity or the protein content of complexes I-V of the respiratory chain. In conclusion, in vitro, but not ex vivo, curcumin protected DMBC from oxidation, which is explained by its low concentrations in the brain. 

Regardless, curcumin potently prevented mitochondrial dysfunction, albeit not by inducing expression of complexes I-V, and up-regulated Nrf2-target genes in accordance with literature. Studies regarding potential signaling pathways involved in the prevention of mitochondrial dysfunction by curcumin are underway in our laboratories.

Mediterranean diet

Oryzanol & Tocotrienols


Omega-3-fatty acids

© Prof. Dr. Gunter P. Eckert 2018