Curry and Alzheimer's Disease

Contributed by: Michael Rafii, M.D., Ph.D - Director of the Memory Disorders Clinic at the University of California, San Diego.

Preparations of the plant Curcuma longa Linn have been used to treat various ailments for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional Indian system of healing. This plant, also known as turmeric, is a member of the ginger family. Within Ayurveda, turmeric preparations are taken orally to treat dyspepsia, flatulence, liver disease, urinary tract disease and as a “blood purifier.” Now, curcumin appears to have primary effects on beta-amyloid aggregation in addition to its known antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and platelet aggregation inhibiting properties

Several other studies have found curcumin, an antioxidant, is beneficial in Alzheimer's disease and a trial is now under way to test the theory in humans with the disease. Interestingly, Indian communities that regularly eat curcumin have a surprisingly low incidence of Alzheimer's disease but we don't yet know why.

Other studies on curry and Alzheimer's include:
•A laboratory study by researchers at UCLA in 2006 showed that curcumin could help clear the human brain of toxic protein deposits thought to cause the memory loss and confusion of Alzheimer's.
•A study of more than 1,000 older men in Singapore last year found that those who ate lots of curry-spiced food did better on memory tests than those who rarely ate the spice.

There is substantial laboratory data indicating that curcumin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and now anti-amyloid activity. In addition, studies in animal models of AD indicate a direct effect of curcumin in decreasing the amyloid pathology of AD. Curcumin is becoming a promising agent in the treatment of AD.

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