A recent randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled study conducted by our research group, provided partial support for the efficacy of supplementation with a patented curcumin extract (500 mg, twice daily) for 8 weeks in reducing depressive symptoms in people with major depressive disorder. In the present paper, a secondary, exploratory analysis of salivary, urinary and blood biomarkers collected during this study was conducted to identify potential antidepressant mechanisms of action of curcumin. Pre and post-intervention samples were provided by 50 participants diagnosed with major depressive disorder, and the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology self-rated version (IDS-SR30) was used as the primary depression outcome measure. Compared to placebo, 8 weeks of curcumin supplementation was associated with elevations in urinary thromboxane B2 (p<0.05), and substance P (p<0.001); while placebo supplementation was associated with reductions in aldosterone (p<0.05) and cortisol (p<0.05). Higher baseline plasma endothelin-1 (rs=-0.587; p<0.01) and leptin (rs=-0.470; p<0.05) in curcumin-treated individuals was associated with greater reductions in IDS-SR30 score after 8 weeks of treatment. Our findings demonstrate that curcumin supplementation influences several biomarkers that may be associated with its antidepressant mechanisms of action. Plasma concentrations of leptin and endothelin-1 seem to have particular relevance to treatment outcome. Further investigations using larger samples sizes are required to elucidate these findings, as the multiple statistical comparisons completed in this study increased the risk of type I errors.
Keywords: Biomarkers; Clinical trial; Curcumin; Depression; Turmeric.
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