Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have discovered that the compound curcumin is able to reverse memory problems and also improve mood. Curcumin is the main biologically active phytochemical compound of Turmeric and gives the spice its bright yellow color and strong taste. Turmeric root is a leafy plant in the ginger family and has a tough brown skin and bright orange flesh. Turmeric is boiled or steamed and then dried, and ground. Its use dates back to nearly 4000 years where it was used mainly as a culinary spice. Turmeric has long been used in the Ayurvedic system of medicine to treat a wide variety of conditions, including pain, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, hemorrhage, toothache, flatulence and bruises.
Curcumin derived from the turmeric root has high levels of phenols that are potent antioxidants. The wide-ranging benefits of curcumin have not gone unnoticed in the scientific community. Scientists are researching curcumin at breathtaking speed. Recent scientific studies have demonstrated the roles of curcumin as an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant agent. Curcumin has been shown to mitigate the effects of several dietary carcinogens. Curcumin also reduces the progression of atherosclerosis by preventing the oxidation and build-up of cholesterol in the body. Now, according to this recent study, consuming curcumin daily may also boost your memory and uplift your mood. Exactly how curcumin exerts its effects is not certain, but it may be due to its ability to reduce brain inflammation, which is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
The study, published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, examined 40 adults between the ages of 50 and 90 years who had mild memory complaints. For the study, they were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo or 90mg of curcumin twice daily for 18 months. The subjects were given standardized cognitive assessment tests at the start of the study and at six month intervals. The curcumin levels in the blood were monitored at before and at the end of the study. The subjects also underwent positron emission tomography, or PET scans, to determine the levels of amyloid and tau in their brains at the start of the study and after 18 months.
The findings revealed that people who took curcumin experienced significant improvements in their memory and attention abilities, compared to the subjects who received the placebo. Subjects taking curcumin improved by 28 per cent over the 18 months in their memory tests. The depression scores of those taking curcumin also improved; the placebo group’s scores did not change. The PET scans of curcumin group showed significantly less amyloid and tau signals in the amygdala and hypothalamus than the placebo group. Both these regions of the brain control anxiety, memory, decision-making, and emotion. Exactly how curcumin exerts its effects is not certain, but it may be due to its ability to reduce brain inflammation, which has been linked to both Alzheimer’s disease and depression. While more work will need to be done before the optimal dose for various individuals or groups can be determined, if you love curry and eat it fairly often, then you’d probably do well to continue.