Cardiovascular disease risk and Covid-19 related PTSD in healthcare workers : the effects of moderate-intensity exercise and curcumin supplementation.


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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been linked to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease and, associatively, poor markers of inflammation, oxidative stress, and endothelial function. Healthcare workers are at greater risk for PTSD development, particularly during pandemics. Curcumin is a bioactive compound sourced from spice turmeric that exhibits anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in humans. Chronic moderate-intensity exercise is also known to trigger anti-inflammatory and antioxidant processes. Pathways that are detrimentally affected by PTSD are affected in the opposite direction by both moderate-intensity exercise and curcumin, meaning each may act as an effective way to mitigate cardiovascular risk caused by PTSD. The purpose of this study was to examine the potential effects of moderate-intensity exercise and curcumin on inflammation, oxidative stress, and endothelial function in healthcare workers. Twenty-four healthcare workers were divided in a randomized, double-blind fashion into three treatment groups: curcumin/exercise (CE), curcumin/no exercise (CNE), and placebo/no exercise (PNE). They participated in their given treatment for 6 weeks. Regardless of the treatment, all groups significantly improved the Impact of Event Scale and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (p < 0.05). Improvement in the Cohen Perceived Stress Scale neared but did not reach a statistical significance (p = 0.053). Regardless of the treatment, all groups had an increase in fat mass (p = 0.027). There were no statistically significant changes in the inflammatory markers, including TNF-a, IL-6, and IL-8 or the oxidative stress markers, SOD and GPx (p < 0.05). In conclusion, claims that curcumin, with or without exercise, could improve oxidative stress, inflammation, or PTSD symptomology were not substantiated by this study. This may be due to the specific subject population, healthcare workers, in the current study and uncontrollable factors such as the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic.