S u m m a r y :
Daily consumption of curcumin, a substance found in common Indian spices such as turmeric, can boost memory and raise the spirits, says a new study published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
Curcumin For Old People With Memory Problems
Curcumin is the molecule behind the bright yellow colour that generally characterises Indian curry. Its daily consumption, as a supplement, appears to improve cognitive power as well as mood in old people suffering from memory problems, says the new research conducted by a team from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
The study was focused on the effects of a curcumin supplement on the memory of a group of elderly people with mild memory loss, but without dementia; another aim of the research was to analyse the impacts of curcumin on Alzheimer’s-related plaques and tangles in the brain.
Curcumin Protects from Alzheimer’s
The benefits of curcumin are not unknown. Previous studies have linked its consumption with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects. Furthermore, it is thought that it might be associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s because India, a country where it is part of the diet, has a lower prevalence of the condition together with better cognitive performance among the older population.
While this is not confirmed, the researchers present possible ways through which curcumin might be bringing about these effects: for instance, first author Gary Small suggests that its anti-inflammatory properties might be protecting the brain such that conditions like Alzheimer’s and depression are prevented.
The Magic Dose: 90mg of Curcumin Daily
The researchers randomly gave either a placebo or 90 milligrams of curcumin to a group of 40 participants from the 50-90 age group; this was repeated twice daily for one and a half years. The subjects also went through cognitive tests at different points in time, and their blood curcumin levels were analysed when the study began, and at its end.
30 of the participants also underwent positron emission tomography (PET scans) to measure the amyloid and tau levels in their brains, both proteins associated with plaques and tangles in the brain, indicative of Alzheimer’s.
The findings show that those who had consumed curcumin experienced significant improvements in memory and attention while no such effect was seen in those who received the placebo. The former also had mildly improved moods, and their PET scans showed significantly fewer amyloid and tau signals in their brains than the latter.
Curcumin as an Antidepressant
The study authors intend to investigate the antidepressant effects of curcumin, if any. They suspect that they might find something significant because some of their participants had mild depression.
“These results suggest that taking this relatively safe form of curcumin could provide meaningful cognitive benefits over the years,” says Small.