The researchers compared the effects of a curcumin supplement with those of a placebo. They found that obese participants with NAFLD who took curcumin had higher concentrations of “good” cholesterol in their blood.
Other reported effects of curcumin supplementation include reductions in hepatic fat accumulation, slimmer waists, and fewer inflammatory biomarkers in the liver.
The study evaluated the potential impact of nano-curcumin, a formula that made it easier for the body to absorb the compound. It received support from Tehran University of Medical Sciences (TUMS), the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) Central Hospital, the Alborz University of Medical Sciences, and the Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences.
“Since there are no medications to combat it, the role of nutrition is a key treatment factor,” the research team wrote in their scientific paper. “By examining dietary components such as curcumin for NAFLD improvement, researchers can begin to uncover new treatments.” (Related: Nearly 40 percent of Americans have fatty liver – here’s how to treat it.)
The experiment took place at the NIOC Central Hospital. The researchers picked overweight or obese patients diagnosed with NAFLD as participants.
After assembling a total of 84 patients with both obesity and NAFLD, the researchers divided the cohort into active and placebo groups. While the assignment was random, they also made sure to control for sex.
The members of the active group took two capsules of nano-curcumin each day. They consumed the first at breakfast and the second one at dinner. Each capsule contained 40 milligrams of curcumin for a daily total of 80 mg.
Simultaneously, the participants in the placebo group got capsules that resembled the curcumin supplement in appearance and taste. They also took two placebos each day.
All participants received advice on healthy lifestyle changes.
From the beginning until the end of the trial, the Iranian researchers monitored the participants' food intake and physical activities using questionnaires. They also measured the participants' weight, waist circumference, fat accumulation, the size of their livers, and blood biomarkers.
The results of their experiment showed that nano-curcumin supplementation decreased the levels of blood glucose, lipids, and biomarkers of inflammation in obese patients. It also reduced the participants' waist circumference.
The researchers also found that the supplement increased nesfatin concentrations in the blood. Nesfatin is a naturally occurring chemical that oversees hunger and fat storage in the body.
Nano-curcumin also decreased blood levels of liver transaminases, which are indicators of liver damage. Finally, curcumin decreased the accumulation of fat in the liver.
The researchers concluded that nano-curcumin can help treat NAFLD by increasing nesfatin levels in the blood.
“This trial was the first to assess the effects of nanocurcumin on serum levels of some important factors related to overweight, obesity, and NAFLD,” the researchers reported. “Further trials on effects of curcumin are suggested, involving larger sample sizes, longer durations, non-obese patients, and considering the mentioned limitations.”
The Iranian pharmaceutical company Exir-Nano-Sina supplied the active supplements and placebos for the experiments.
The researchers received funding from the TUMS. Their findings were published in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism early this year.