Researchers at UCLA found that the spice curcumin, the most active constituent of turmeric, improved the memory and mood of older adults with mild memory impairments. They also noted that the brains of the seniors contained less tau and amyloid proteins, substances that damage mental functions and are linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
“Exactly how curcumin may exert cognitive and mood effects is not certain, but several potential mechanisms could explain our findings,” said first author Dr. Gary Small, director of geriatric psychiatry at UCLA’s Longevity Center and of the geriatric psychiatry division at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. “Curcumin reduces inflammation, and heightened brain inflammation has been linked to both Alzheimer disease and major depression.”
Curcumin Boosted Memory 28 Percent
Forty participants between the ages of 51 and 84 with mild memory loss were involved in the study. They were randomly chosen to take either a placebo or 90 mg of a highly absorbable form of curcumin twice a day for 18 months. The participants were administered visual and verbal memory tests at the study’s onset and at six-month intervals to determine the efficacy of the supplements in improving overall brain function. In addition, thirty of the adults were given positron emission tomography, or PET scans, to assess levels of tau and amyloid proteins in their brains at the beginning of the study and after 18 months.
The results showed that only the participants who took the curcumin received significant improvements. Their scores on memory tests increased 28 percent over 18 months, and they enjoyed mild enhancements in mood. The PET scans showed significantly less tau and amyloid signals in the hypothalamus and amygdala, which are parts of the brain that control several emotional and memory functions.
“These results suggest that taking this relatively safe form of curcumin could provide meaningful cognitive benefits over the years,” said Small.
The researchers plan to conduct a follow-up study using a larger number of participants, including some with mild depression. They would like to ascertain if curcumin’s memory-boosting benefits are influenced by various factors, as well as evaluate the supplement’s effects on depression. The study was published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
Evidence Shows Curcumin’s Other Benefits
Turmeric is a primary ingredient in curry powder, a spice very popular in the cuisine of India. People of this country, who consume 100 to 200 mg of curcumin daily for extended periods, have a low incidence of cancer, which researchers think may be attributed to the spice. (Learn more in our article Can a Teaspoon of Turmeric a Day Prevent Cancer?)
Yet evidence linking curcumin to cancer-fighting properties isn’t confined to population studies. A 2013 research paper appearing in the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry showed curcumin induced the deaths of two types of brain tumors. Another study, published in 2012 in the journal Carcinogenesis, discovered curcumin suppressed the spread of prostate cancer.
Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties are also beneficial for other maladies. In a 2014 study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, turmeric was found to be more effective than ibuprofen for knee pain. (You can read all about the study in our article Curcumin Outperforms Ibuprofen for Knee Pain.) A 2013 investigation in the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine showed the spice’s ability to fight inflammation was of value for gingivitis, as curcumin outperformed chemical mouthwash for gingivitis.
To learn even more about all of the clinically backed health perks of curcumin, see our article,
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.