Curcumin, the yellow pigment in turmeric (curry spice), may be one reason India has among the world’s lowest Alzheimer’s rates, according to a UCLA-Veterans Affairs study.
Less than 1 percent of Indians over 65 have Alzheimer’s. In America the rate is over 3 percent in the 65-74 age group, and dramatically higher at more advanced ages, according to the National Institutes of Health.
New reports estimate that the number of Alzheimer’s cases in the USA will likely triple to 13.8 million by 2050, raising concerns about the nation’s ability to afford care.
So, why not try tumeric to see if we can get these numbers down?
Well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric is a staple of the Indian diet. These facts led study researchers to test curcumin as an alternative to anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®), which have been proven to have dangerous side effects.
Dietary curcumin was found effective against injected amyloid proteins in the brains of aged lab mice, which also outperformed the control group in memory-dependent maze tests.
Hey, if the mice can do it, we, humans, surely can!
When the researchers added curcumin to human beta-amyloid proteins in the test tube, the formation of amyloid fibers was blocked – this is a good thing.
Ten years ago in 2004, the Journal of Biological Chemistry documented research showing curcumin penetrated the blood-brain barrier and bound itself to beta amyloid, preventing the formation of amyloid fibers that make up Alzheimer’s plaques.
This was discovered over a decade ago, but not much has been done about it.
Unlike ibuprofen, curcumin was shown to have the additional benefit of reducing oxidative damage to the brain, which is several-fold elevated in Alzheimer’s disease and likely contributes greatly to memory loss.
Curcumin in tumeric has been shown to do three important things:
- trigger clearance of amyloid already present;
- reverse oxidative damage contributing to memory loss;
- reduce toxic substances associated with chronic inflammation.
The prospect of finding a safe and effective approach to both the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease is tremendously positive when natural, and ancient, alternatives like tumeric and curcumin are re-introduced into our daily diets.
How positive is that?