At Herbsea, we love to eat nutritious and delicious foods from Mother Nature. Many ethnic foods, such as Indian and Asian styles, are abundant with vegetables, fruits and spices that have specific health benefits, and can help keep you lean and fit in the process.
Curry (turmeric) is a spice most people associate with Indian food, but it is also widely used in other Asian nations. And now a new study from UCLA shows that daily consumption of this culinary spice can help actually improve memory and mood in people who have mild age-related memory loss.
The double-blind, placebo-controlled study (published online January 19 in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry), examined the effects of a curcumin supplement on memory performance in people without dementia, and its potential impact on the microscopic plaques and tangles in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s.
Curcumin is the active ingredient with dozens of human clinical trials demonstrating its ability to positively influence inflammation response and in joint comfort and enhanced mobility. Interestingly, some studies have suggested that there is a lower prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive performance impairments in India’s senior citizens. In the brain, “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 major depression,” said co-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.
The new double-blind, placebo-controlled study involved 40 adults between 50 and 90 years old who had mild memory complaints who took either placebo or 90 milligrams of curcumin twice daily for 18 months. All 40 subjects received standardized cognitive assessments at the start of the study and at six-month intervals, and monitoring of curcumin levels in their blood at the start of the study and after 18 months. Thirty of the volunteers 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.
According to the researchers, at the end of the study those who took curcumin experienced significant improvements in their memory and attention abilities; there were no improvements noted in the placebo group. In memory tests, the curcumin group improved by 28 percent over the 18 months, reported mild improvements in mood, and their brain PET scans showed significantly less amyloid and tau signals in the amygdala and hypothalamus than the placebo group. The amygdala and hypothalamus control several memory and emotional functions. “These results suggest that taking this relatively safe form of curcumin could provide meaningful cognitive benefits over the years,” said Small.
He added that he and his team plan to conduct a follow-up study with a larger number of people. That study will include some people with mild depression so the scientists can explore whether curcumin also has mood-support effects.
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