New mechanisms and the anti-inflammatory role of curcumin in obesity and obesity-related metabolic diseases



A metabolic abnormality such as obesity is a major obstacle in the maintenance of the human health system and causes various chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, as well as various cancers. This study was designed to summarize the recent scientific knowledge regarding the anti-obesity role of curcumin (diferuloylmethane), which is isolated from the herb curcuma longa, known to possess anti-inflammatory activities. However, little is known about its exact underlying molecular mechanisms in the treatment of obesity and metabolic diseases. Furthermore, cell cultures, animal models of obesity, and few human clinical and epidemiological studies have added the promise for future therapeutic interventions of this dietary compound.


An electronic search was performed using Science finder, Medline, Scopus, Google scholar and collected English language articles from 2000 to 2010, relating to the role of curcumin in obesity and metabolic diseases.


Obesity has been classified as a growing epidemic and its associated metabolic disorders are considered a major risk to the health system. Curcumin interacts with specific proteins in adipocytes, pancreatic cells, hepatic stellate cells, macrophages, and muscle cells, where it suppresses several cellular proteins such as transcription factor NF-kB, STAT-3, Wnt/β-catenin and activates PPAR-γ, Nrf2 cell signaling pathway. In addition, curcumin downregulates the inflammatory cytokines, resistin and leptin, and upregulates adiponectin as well as other associated proteins. The interactions of curcumin with several signal transduction pathways reverse insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, and other inflammatory symptoms associated with obesity and metabolic diseases.


The modulation of several cellular transduction pathways by curcumin has recently been extended to elucidate the molecular basis for obesity and obesity-related metabolic diseases. These findings might enable novel phytochemical treatment strategies as well as curcumin translation to the clinical practice for the treatment and prevention of obesity-related chronic diseases. Furthermore, the relatively low cost of curcumin, safety and proven efficacy make it advisable to include curcumin as part of healthy diet.

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This work was supported by Nuclear Research and Development Program of National Research Foundation of Korea funded by Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (grant code: 2010-0017517).

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Shehzad, A., Ha, T., Subhan, F. et al. New mechanisms and the anti-inflammatory role of curcumin in obesity and obesity-related metabolic diseases. Eur J Nutr 50, 151–161 (2011).

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  • Curcumin
  • Obesity
  • Inflammation
  • Adipocytes
  • Adiponectin