Can Turmeric Cause Liver Disease?

Dina Halegoua-DeMarzio et al. have analysed data from the Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network (DILIN). It suggests a growing risk of liver damage associated with turmeric consumption in the US. Here’s a breakdown of the key findings:

  • Increase in cases: The study identified 10 cases of turmeric-induced liver injury, all reported since 2011. Notably, there’s been a sharper rise since 2017, potentially reflecting increased turmeric use or its combination with black pepper.
  • Patient demographics: The majority of cases (8 out of 10) involved women, with a median age of 56 (ranging from 35 to 71 years old). Most patients identified as white.
  • Type of liver injury: The most common type of injury was hepatocellular (affecting liver cells). One case involved mixed injury.
  • Severity: Five patients required hospitalization, and tragically, one person died due to acute liver failure.
  • Genetic link: Genetic analysis revealed that 7 out of 10 patients carried the HLA-B*35:01 genetic marker. This marker showed a significantly higher frequency in the study group compared to the general population, suggesting a potential link to increased risk.
  • Turmeric and black pepper: Chemical analysis confirmed the presence of turmeric in all tested supplements. Interestingly, 3 out of 7 products also contained piperine, the active ingredient in black pepper, which may enhance curcumin (active component of turmeric) absorption. This raises a question about the potential role of black pepper in these cases.

Overall, the study highlights a potential link between turmeric consumption and severe liver injury, particularly for those with the HLA-B*35:01 marker. It also suggests a need for further investigation into the impact of combining turmeric with black pepper. What is not clear, is whether the researchers looked into the possibility of hepatotoxic contaminants within some of the supplements? For example, aflatoxins linked to mold on the rhizomes? Given the increased popularity of turmeric for its anti-inflammatory properties, more research should be conducted into the presence of hepatotoxic contaminants, safe dosage and the effects of long-term use on different population groups.