Curcumin and normal functioning of joints: evaluation of a health claim

Curcumin and normal functioning of joints: evaluation of a health claim

Following an application from Suomen Terveysravinto Oy, submitted for authorisation of a health claim pursuant to Article 13(5) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 via the Competent Authority of Finland, the EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) was asked to deliver an opinion on the scientific substantiation of a health claim related to curcumin and normal functioning of joints.

The scope of the application was proposed to fall under a health claim based on newly developed scientific evidence.

The general approach of the NDA Panel for the evaluation of health claims applications is outlined in the EFSA general guidance for stakeholders on health claim applications and the guidance on the scientific requirements for health claims related to guidance on the scientific requirements for health claims related to bone, joints, skin and oral health.

The food that is proposed as the subject of the health claim is curcumin. The Panel considers that curcumin, which is the subject of the health claim, is sufficiently characterised.

The claimed effect proposed by the applicant is ‘normal functioning of joints by reducing the biomarkers of inflammation’. The target population proposed by the applicant is the general population. Upon a request from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to clarify whether the claimed effect is related to the normal function of joints or rather to the reduction of inflammation, the applicant did not address this issue in the reply. In the absence of clarification from the applicant and taking into account the proposed wording for the claim, the Panel assumes that the claimed effect refers to the maintenance of joint function. The Panel considers that maintenance of joint function is a beneficial physiological effect.

The applicant identified 16 human intervention studies on the effects of curcumin on ‘markers’ of joint function as being pertinent to the claim. The Panel notes that 11 studies were performed in patients with knee osteoarthritis, two were performed in patients with osteoarthritis and clinical manifestations in many joints, and two were conducted in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The Panel considers that no conclusions can be drawn from these 15 human intervention studies conducted in patients with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis for the scientific substantiation of the claim. Another human intervention study conducted in obese subjects assessed the effects of curcumin in combination with bioperine on 12 of serum cytokines; joint function was not assessed. The Panel considers that no conclusions can be drawn from this study for the scientific substantiation of the claim.

The Panel considers that, in the absence of evidence for an effect of curcumin on the normal function of joints in humans, the results of the human studies on curcumin pharmacokinetics, safety and mechanistic studies (n = 15), the animal studies (n = 12) and the in vitro (n = 12) studies submitted by the applicant cannot be used as a source of data for the scientific substantiation of the claim. The Panel considers also that no conclusions can be drawn from 25 narrative reviews for the scientific substantiation of the claim.

On the basis of the data presented, the Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of curcumin and maintenance of joint function.

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