In a recent report in the American Journal of Epidemiology , researchers investigated the association between curry consumption level and cognitive function in elderly Asians.
Those who consumed curry “occasionally” and “often or very often” had significantly better scores on specific tests designed to measure cognitive function than did subjects who “never or rarely” consumed curry.
The results of this study are not surprising given the strong association of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia with inflammation and the powerful anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin. But the relationship of turmeric to brain health, and specifically to Alzheimer’s, goes much deeper.
One of the important elements of Alzheimer’s disease is the finding of elevated amounts of a specific damaging protein in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers, amyloid protein. Indeed, amyloid is considered one of the hallmarks of this disease.
For a total of 18 months, the participants were randomized to one of two groups. One group took 90 milligrams of curcumin twice daily, while the other group took a placebo.
The curcumin used in this study was a bioavailable form called Theracurmin, which the researchers describe as a “form of curcumin with increased intestinal endothelium penetrability.”
New research published in the Journal of Neuroscience Research has shown that curcumin actually inhibits the formation of amyloid protein. So promising were these findings that the author of the study concluded that curcumin “could be a key molecule for the development of therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease.”
At the study baseline, all participants underwent standard cognitive tests, and these were repeated every 6 months throughout the study, as well as at the end of the study.
Additionally, 30 of the subjects — 15 of whom were receiving curcumin — had positron emission tomography (PET) scans of their brain at the beginning and end of the study.
These scans were conducted in order to assess levels of the beta-amyloid and tau, which are proteins that are considered a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Research
Results revealed that the subjects who took curcumin twice daily demonstrated a 28 percent improvement in memory tests over the course of the study, while those who took the placebo showed no significant memory improvements.
Subjects who received curcumin also experienced slight improvements in mood, unlike those who took the placebo.
Another clinical trial showed that 90 milligrams of curcumin taken twice a day for 18 months helped improve memory performance in adults without dementia.
Researchers thought that the reduction in brain inflammation and curcumin’s antioxidant properties led to less decline in neurocognition, which is the ability to think and reason. Curcumin may also have a role in preventing the development of Alzheimer’s disease — however, that’s an area that is needed for more research.
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