This boost in bioavailability addresses curcumin's relatively poor solubility and absorption from the gut, leading suppliers to focus on optimising its delivery and its metabolites for supplement and functional foods. A new study might change your mind. Curcumin, the natural bright yellow chemical which lends curry its color, has been shown to improve memory and mood in people with mild, age-related memory loss. It has also been suggested as a possible reason that older people in India have a lower prevalence of Alzheimer's disease and better cognitive performance considering they consume turmeric nearly on daily basis in dals, vegetables and other dishes.
It is turmeric's abundance of a compound called curcumin that makes it so special. It also has strong anti-inflammatory properties.
"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 depression", said Dr Gary Small, study author and director of geriatric psychiatry at UCLA's Longevity Center.
The study was supported by the Ahmanson Foundation, the Marshall and Margherite McComb Foundation, the McMahan Foundation, Bob and Marion Wilson, the Fran and Ray Stark Foundation Fund for Alzheimer's Disease Research, the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health.
The subjects took standardized cognitive assessments at the start of the study and then every six months. The onset of Alzheimer's disease has been shown to be triggered by the accumulation of protein plaque in the brain. Research has suggested that an increase in levels of beta-amyloid and tau can occur up to 15 years before symptoms of Alzheimer's arise, suggesting that the proteins may be an early indicator of the disease. The participants, aged between 40 and 90 years old, took either 90 milligrams of curcumin twice a day or a placebo throughout the course of the study.
By the end of the study, researchers concluded that memory and attention abilities improved by 28 percent in those who were ingesting curcumin after examining their performance in memory tests.
What is more, participants who took curcumin also had lower levels of beta-amyloid and tau in the hypothalamus and amygdala brain regions, which are regions that play key roles in memory and emotion.
The study's results suggest, said Small that taking this safe form of curcumin might provide cognitive benefits that are meaningful over a period of time.
Despite the positive results, officials did note that four patients were overcome with mild side effects such as stomach pain and nausea.
According to Dr. Small and colleagues, a follow-up study is in the pipeline.
It will include some people with mild depression to find out antidepressant effects. Researchers also found decreases in areas of the brain that affect mood and memory, and that have been associated with Alzheimer's disease.