Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, but one of its compounds, curcumin, could have another use. In a new study, researchers demonstrated that you can keep probiotic yogurts fresh for longer by using a specialized form of curcumin, offering the yogurts a long shelf life and maintaining their healthy properties without altering the taste and texture.
Curcumin is the naturally occurring pigment that makes turmeric yellow. Technically speaking, it’s a polyphenol, a micronutrient that occurs in plants. Curcumin has the ability to increase the amount of antioxidants that the body produces. But the health benefits of curcumin are often exaggerated, and the challenges associated often glossed over.
“It is well known that curcumin has anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting effects,” says lead author Magdalena Buniowska-Olejnik, from the Institute of Food Technology and Nutrition at the University of Rzeszow, Poland. “However, it is insoluble in water, which is one of the main reasons why our bodies are not able to absorb sufficient amounts for it to have a biological effect. We wanted to see if it was possible to create a dairy product containing curcumin in a bioavailable form that would also appeal to the consumer.”
The research team developed a form of curcumin called NOMICU L-100 — a form which they also registered legally. This form dissolves well in water and can be absorbed by the body, and in yogurt at least, is also more effective at inhibiting the growth of yeast, fungi, and bacteria. Over a period of 28 days, it was found to better preserve the yogurt, as highlighted by tests and a panel of expert tasters.
“Yogurt containing the standard turmeric extract was slightly better at remaining in a homogenous form without a layer of water developing on the top. However, it tasted bitter and the taste deteriorated after the first week of storage in the fridge, so it did not appeal to the tasting panel. In addition, its color was towards the green end of the yellow spectrum, whereas NOMICU shifted the color toward the red end, making it look more attractive. NOMICU imparted a sweet, rich, creamy flavour to the yogurt, which remained stable to the end of the 28 days storage in the fridge,” explained Buniowska-Olejnik.
Maciej Banach, Professor of Cardiology at the Medical University of Lodz, Poland, says that this type of curcumin could not only help keep yogurt fresh for longer without preservatives, but it could turn yogurt into a “nutraceutical.” Nutraceuticals are essentially foods that come with extra benefits in addition to their basic nutritional value. While the health effects of NOMICU haven’t been tested thoroughly, researchers say they expect yogurt with this compound to be healthier than the plain version.
“As a cardiologist, I consider that a yogurt enriched with a nutraceutical, which has been shown to be effective and safe, has potential for improving population health, especially when taking into account how often yogurts are consumed in everyday diet. What is more, by adding an effective nutraceutical to the yogurt, we have created a kind of ‘polypill’ or healthy product that contains a combination of elements that may be good for human health. This might mean that people would be more likely to adhere to it than if they consumed the two products separately. In consequence, we might expect to see better health results.
“This is especially important now, in post-pandemic times, when around 70% of the population is overweight, obese or suffer from disorders of the gut, and are at high risk of chronic diseases, including two of the biggest killers – cardiovascular disease and cancer, which are responsible for over 30 million deaths per year worldwide.”