Review article

Curcumin and dietary polyphenol research: beyond drug discovery

Authors: Tian-ru JIN1,2,3
1 Department of Medicine, Department of Physiology, University of Toronto
2 Division of Advanced Diagnostic, Toronto General Research Institute, University Health Network
3 Banting and Best Diabetes Centre, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto
DOI: 10.1038/aps.2017.179
Received: 4 November 2017
Accepted: 21 December 2017
Advance online: 15 March 2018


Numerous natural products available over the counter are commonly consumed by healthy, sub-healthy or ill people for the treatment and prevention of various chronic diseases. Among them, a few dietary polyphenols, including the curry compound curcumin, have been attracting the most attention from biomedical researchers and drug developers. Unlike many so-called “good drug candidates”, curcumin and several other dietary polyphenols do not have a single known therapeutic target or defined receptor. In addition, the bioavailability of these polyphenols is usually very low due to their poor absorption in the gut. These recently debated features have created enormous difficulties for drug developers. In this review, I do not discuss how to develop curcumin, other dietary polyphenols or their derivatives into pharmaceutical agents. Instead, I comment on how curcumin and dietary polyphenol research has enriched our knowledge of insulin signaling, including the presentation of my perspectives on how these studies will add to our understanding of the famous hepatic insulin function paradox.
Keywords: curcumin; dietary polyphenols; insulin resistance; type 2 diabetes; dietary intervention; ChREBP; Fgf21; hepatic insulin function paradox