Curcumin A Key Ingredient In Alzheimer's Prevention

Contributed from

Curcumin, the yellow pigment in turmeric (curry spice), may be one of the reasons India has among the world's lowest Alzheimer's disease rates, according to a new UCLA-Veterans Affairs study.

Less than 1 percent of Indians over 65 have Alzheimer's. In America the rate is 3 percent in the 65-74 age group, and dramatically higher at more advanced ages, according to the National Institutes of Health. Well known for its
anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric is a staple of the Indian diet. These facts led study co-author Sally Frautschy to test curcumin as an alternative to anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®), which 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.

Additionally, when the researchers added curcumin to human beta-amyloid proteins in a test tube, the formation of amyloid fibers was blocked.

Reporting in the Dec. 7, 2004, online edition of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the research team said the low molecular weight and polar structure of curcumin allow it to penetrate the blood-brain barrier and bind to beta amyloid, preventing the formation of amyloid fibers that make up Alzheimer's plaques.

"Unlike ibuprofen, curcumin has the additional benefit of reducing oxidative damage of the brain, which is several-fold elevated in Alzheimer's disease and likely contributes greatly to memory loss," said Frautschy.

"We believe curcumin will do three important things: trigger clearance of amyloid already present; reverse oxidative damage contributing to memory loss; [and] reduce toxic substances associated with chronic inflammation." The
researchers have secured funding for a clinical trial to establish safe and effective doses in Alzheimer's patients.

"The prospect of finding a safe and effective new approach to both prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease is tremendously exciting," said principal investigator Gregory Cole.

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Posted May 2005 | Permanent Link

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