According to a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, consuming a certain kind of curcumin daily improved memory and mood in people with mild, age-related memory loss.
Curcumin, the compound in turmeric that gives curry its yellow colour, is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This new study shows that it may also prevent memory problems from worsening over time or even improve memory. Changes were seen in both the participants’ cognitive capacities and in their brain cells.
“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 Dr. Gary Small, study author and 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.
These findings may account for research that demonstrates there is a lower occurrence of Alzheimer’s in India, where turmeric is a dietary staple.
In a double-blind study, researchers randomized 40 people between the ages of 51 and 84 and prescribed them either a twice daily 90-mg bioavailable curcumin supplement or a placebo. The bioavailability of the supplement allowed for easier absorption by the body. Participants completed memory and cognition tests and underwent brain scans at the start of the study and again every 6 months for 18 months.
After 18 months, the group who had taken curcumin showed a 28% improvement in memory and improved depression scores. Their brain scans revealed significantly less amyloid and tau accumulation in the amygdala and hypothalamus regions of the brain, areas that control anxiety, memory, decision-making, and emotion.
The research was published online in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry in January 2018.