Spice in­gre­di­ent is able to boost your mem­ory, say ex­perts

Daily Express - - FRONT PAGE - 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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