It all started with the observation that Indian people who eat habitually turmeric show a lower prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and better cognitive performances in elderly. Science has begun to study this spice and the results of the researches have highlighted a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action. And it’s dated some months ago a scientific study, performed by UCLA, the University of California Los Angeles (Small et al, Am J Geriatr Psychiatry, Mar 2018), that has been able to observe the action of curcumin, the active substance of turmeric, directly on the brain by improving memory, attention and even mood!
The scientists recruited 40 volunteers aged between 50-85 years and in good health conditions. These volunteers were asked to undergo, before the start of the research, memory tests and specific medical examinations for the state of health of their brain. The participants were then divided into two groups, the first group received for 18 months a supplement with 90 mg of curcumin twice a day, the second group took a placebo. After the 18 months the participants underwent again the tests and examinations. What has been observed is that those people who took curcumin improved by 28% their memory and attention skills over the 18 months, the group who took the placebo didn’t show any changes. Moreover, the participants to the study that took curcumin observed a better mood and showed also lower levels of tau and amyloid proteins, connected to the risk of developing Alzheimer, than the people who took a placebo. Very interesting is that this lower levels of proteins have been observed in amygdala and hypothalamus, that are regions of the brain that control several functions from memory to emotions.
Other studies will be performed to extend the research on a larger sample of population but this is, until now, a great result, really promising. The study used a supplement with a highly bioavailable form of curcumin. The problem with turmeric that is taken as a food is indeed that curcumin isn’t able to overcome the barrier of stomach. For this reason, in order to increase availability and absorption of turmeric as a food, the spice has to be taken with extra virgin olive oil and some ground black pepper.