Posted on Jun 15, 2009, 10 a.m.
By gary clark
A key ingredient in curry, curcumin, appears to prevent the spread of amyloid plaques, which are believed to cause dementia, finds researchers from Duke University of North Carolina.
Scientists believe that amyloid plaques, which are found in the brains of Alzheimer's sufferers, contribute to the degradation of the wiring in brain cells, eventually causing such symptoms of dementia as memory loss and mental impairment. Now researchers from Duke University of North Carolina say that a key ingredient in curry -- curcumin, which is a component of the spice turmeric -- binds to those plaques, preventing their harmful spread and helping prevent the onset of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. They suggest that eating curry two or three times a week can lower the risk of dementia, and point out that Indian communities with a diet rich in curcumin have a low incidence of Alzheimer's. The researchers are currently testing the impact of higher dose of curry to see if they can maximize its preventive effect.
"There is very solid evidence that curcumin binds to plaques, and basic research on animals engineered to produce human amyloid plaques has shown benefits," says Professor Murali Doraiswamy of Duke University. "You can modify a mouse so that at about 12 months its brain is riddled with plaques. If you feed this rat a curcumin-rich diet it dissolves these plaques. The same diet prevented younger mice from forming new plaques," he explains. There are plans to take the research to the next step in order to test curcumin on human amyloid plaque formation using newer brain scans. And in fact, Professor Doraiswamy notes that a clinical trial is now underway at the University of California, Los Angeles, to test curcumin's effects in Alzheimer's patients.
Professor Doraiswamy says it may be possible to develop a curry pill that offers the same health benefits as making curry a regular part of the diet. However, Rebecca Wood from the Alzheimer's Research Trust emphasizes that people would need to eat a lot of curry -- over 100g of turmeric curry powder -- to get a clinical dose of curcumin. "Professor Doraiswamy's unpublished research applies only to animal models; his hypothesis has not been confirmed in human clinical trials," she says and adds, "We look forward to the results of the human curcumin trial at UCLA."
News Release: Weekly curry may fight dementia www.news.bbc.co.uk June 3, 2009