Regular curry consumption may help protect against dementia, scientists say

While the merits of Guyana vs Trinidad curry continue to be hotly debated, a new study has put an entirely new twist on the term “crazy about curry.”

The study suggests that eating curry at least once a week may help ward off dementia.

The research shows that curcumin, the key chemical in the curry spice turmeric, boosts brain power, protects against memory loss in old age, and is thought to delay or prevent dementia symptoms.

The findings add to evidence that older people living in cultures where curry is a staple food have better cognitive function and a lower prevalence of dementia.

You don’t necessarily have to eat it, moreover. A study of middle aged and elderly people found those who popped a curcumin capsule three times a day had better memories than those given a placebo.

A year-long trial published in the British Journal of Nutrition found evidence that curcumin blocks beta amyloid proteins which clump together and destroy neurons.

Over the 12-month period, 96 participants aged between 40 and 90 were given either 1,500 mg of curcumin or a placebo daily.

About half of the participants took a 500mg curcumin capsule three times a day after meals with water. The placebo group took a placebo capsule at the same times.

In tests of memory and verbal skills, the participants on the placebo experienced a decline in mental function after just six months that was not seen in those taking the curcumin.

The study is among a significant body of new research exploring how medicinal foods, if not drugs, may be the answer to taming this debilitating disease.

One of the issues with curcumin is poor intestinal absorption, however, and food ingredient formulators are seeking to overcome this limitation with a variety of corrective approaches.

Commenting on the latest study, Dr Stephanie Rainey-Smith, of Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia, said: “Curcumin therapy in animals has produced positive cognitive and behavioural outcomes; results of human trials, however, have been inconsistent.

“In this study, we report the results of a 12-month, randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind study that investigated the ability of a curcumin formulation to prevent cognitive decline in a population of community-dwelling older adults.

“Our findings suggest that further longitudinal assessment is required to investigate changes in cognitive outcome measures, ideally in conjunction with biological markers of neurodegeneration.”

Dr Laura Phipps, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, noted: “While there has been some early stage research into the effects of curcumin on brain health, there is currently no conclusive evidence it could prevent or treat dementia in people.

“Large-scale clinical trials will be required before researchers can fully assess any potential benefits.”

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