Spicing up Your Memory

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Alarming research from Alzheimer’s Australia projects that by 2050 there will be over 175,000 new cases of dementia diagnosed every year, more than the total number of cases in Australia in 2000.

Rather than feeling a sense of concern at spending your senior years effected by memory loss and the associated impact on the overall quality of life, hope is on the horizon in the form of an ancient Indian spice.

Curcumin, the active ingredient in Turmeric, the spice that has formed the basis of the humble curry and general cooking for over 2500 years in India is showing remarkable promise in the treatment of a wide variety of health related issues. World wide there are over 1000 published animal and human studies, both in vivo and in vitro, in which the effects of curcumin on various diseases including Alzheimer’s disease have been examined.

A patented C3 complex of curcumin was used in many of the studies conducted and is now available in capsule form without the need for a prescription.

Curcumin has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and according to scientists, these properties are believed to help ease Alzheimer’s symptoms caused by oxidation and inflammation. Curcumin also protects the brain mitochondria against various forms of oxidative stress.

The most prominent characteristic in Alzheimer’s disease is the presence of beta-amyloid plaques. The amyloid build-up is a degenerative process clogging up the brain with protein deposits that interfere with the brain’s memory and learning abilities. As curcumin has the ability to prevent the accumulation of these plaques it has a huge neuroprotective role to play in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Because of its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, curcumin can effectively bind to these plaques. A study conducted at UCLA (1) found that curcumin may also help the macrophages to clear the amyloid plaques found in Alzheimer’s disease.

Macrophages play an important role in the immune system. They help the body to fight against foreign proteins and then effectively clear them. Thus curcumin may support the immune system to clear amyloid protein.

One other important factor in the pathogenesis in Alzheimer’s disease is the chronic inflammation of nerve cells. Curcumin has a potent anti-inflammatory effect and therefore it may have role in alleviating Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin decreases the low density lipoprotein oxidation and free radicals that cause the deterioration in Alzheimer’s disease and other neuron degenerative diseases such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Studies also show that heavy metals such as cadmium and lead can induce A-beta aggregation and toxicity and are concentrated in a brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin interacts with these heavy metals and diminishes the neurotoxicity caused by them. Study results show lead-induced damage in neurons was significantly reduced in rats injected with curcumin(2).

Given that Dementia is fast becoming more wide spread in the community and is projected to show the greatest increase in disease burden by 2023, these findings on curcumin may well lead to a promising and inexpensive therapy for Alzheimer’s prevention.

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