Daily Express


Spice ingredient is able to boost your memory, say experts

- By Giles Sheldrick

A CURRY spice could help stop the onset of dementia, research suggests.

Curcumin, a wonder ingredient used in Indian food, has been shown to improve memory and mood in older people.

Breakthrou­gh tests in the US show twice-aday supplement­s boosted brain power in the over 50s, leading scientists to speculate that it could become an important weapon in the fight against Alzheimer’s.

Professor Gary Small, director of geriatric psychiatry at the University of California, said: “These results suggest taking this relatively safe form of curcumin could provide meaningful cognitive benefits over the years.”

He added: “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 and major depression.”

Curcumin is found in turmeric, which gives curry its distinctiv­e yellow colour, and is used as a food flavouring, preservati­ve and herbal

remedy for arthritis, cancer and heart diseases. Researcher­s think its anti-inflammato­ry and antioxidan­t properties could be harnessed to provide protection from the toxic proteins that are hallmarks of incurable brain wasting illnesses.

The latest study involved 40 adults aged between 50 and 90 with mild memory problems. Each was randomly assigned to receive a placebo or 90mg of curcumin twice a day for 18 months. All received standard cognitive assessment­s at the start and then six-month intervals. Thirty underwent positron emission tomography [PET] scans which show the build up of two abnormal proteins: Amyloid beta and tau.

Those taking the curcumin supplement, known as Theracurmi­n, saw their performanc­e in memory tests improve by 28 per cent over the course of the study, while those receiving a placebo did not.

They also showed mild improvemen­ts in mood, while scans revealed significan­tly less accumulati­on of amyloid and tau in regions of the brain controllin­g several vital memory and emotional functions. The results are so encouragin­g scientists now plan a larger follow-up study.

The spice has been suggested as one reason older people in India, where curcumin is a dietary staple, have lower rates of Alzheimer’s and better mental function.

Prof Small, whose findings are published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, added: “Studies indicate a lower prevalence of Alzheimer’s in Indian people who consume curcumin in curry.”

Dr Sara Imarisio, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Previous research has linked curcumin to memory and thinking benefits and while it’s positive to see studies moving into people, this relationsh­ip is by no means conclusive. Many natural products have been linked to health benefits, but it’s important for such approaches to be properly tested before they’re recommende­d to treat a particular condition or health concern.”

Dementia accounted for 12 per cent of all fatalities in England and Wales in 2016 – 62,948 deaths.

It was the leading cause of death for both men and women aged 80 and over and is caused by changes in nerve cells in the brain, which lead to a breakdown in mental function. Telltale symptoms include memory loss, confused thinking and difficulti­es with speech.

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