A chemical compound in turmeric, an Asian spice used to flavor curry powders, may prove useful in treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. The compound works by triggering cells of the immune system to gobble up brain-clogging plaques associated with the condition.
These findings, published in the July edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, support previous claims that curry may help combat Alzheimer’s disease. Other research has shown that regular consumption of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, may even boost brainpower.
In a study of more than a thousand elderly Asian adults, researchers at the National University of Singapore evaluated performance on a standard test of cognitive function. Individuals who consumed curry often or even occasionally scored significantly higher than those who rarely or never ate the spice.
Observational studies support the notion that curcumin may have protective actions in the brain. In India, where curry consumption is commonplace, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is among the lowest in the world.
In the United States, however, the condition is a major problem among elderly Americans, and one that is expected to worsen in the coming years. Currently, one in eight Americans age 65 and older suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.
While there’s mounting evidence to suggest that a curry-rich diet is beneficial for Alzheimer’s patients, scientists are investigating a number of other potential medicinal uses of curcumin. One of its most promising properties is its ability to thwart the runaway growth of cancer cells.
In a study published in the medical journal, The Prostate, scientists evaluated the effects of the compound on mice injected with human prostate cancer cells. Six weeks after initiating treatment, tumors in the mice receiving curcumin were at least 70 percent smaller than tumors in the mice fed a placebo supplement.
When scientists at the University of Texas added curcumin to samples of melanoma skin cancer cells in the laboratory, they found that the more spice they added, the more cells died. Researchers speculate that the compound blocks the signals that cancer cells need to survive.
In human subjects, a curcumin-containing ointment was found to produce significant improvements in the symptoms of individuals suffering from skin cancer. Most patients treated with the ointment reported less itching and pain, and some noted a reduction in the size of the cancerous skin lesions.
Curcumin has been shown to cause death in cultures of colorectal cancer cells in laboratory studies. In animal models, the chemical is known to slow the progression and shrink the size of colorectal tumors.
A curry-rich diet may reduce the likelihood of developing stomach ulcers. Not only does it trigger production of the mucus that lines and protects the stomach, it also appears to inhibit the growth of Helicobacter pylori, a bacterial cause of many stomach ulcers.
As an agent with potent anti-oxidant properties, curcumin shows promise in the prevention and treatment of coronary heart disease. Recent research suggests that the compound reduces total cholesterol levels, as well as levels of unhealthy LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein).
Regular consumption of curry-containing foods may reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Studies conducted by Danish researchers demonstrated curcumin’s ability to inhibit the formation of artery-clogging blood clots in the vessels of the heart and brain.
Curry has long been known to possess powerful anti-inflammatory properties. For thousands of years, practitioners of Hindu medicine have prescribed it for the relief of swelling caused by injury and infection.
This property makes it useful in a number of roles, including the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. In a preliminary trial involving 18 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, researchers found the effects of curcumin just as effective as those of a prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.
Arthritis sufferers taking 1,200 milligrams curcumin daily for two weeks reported significant improvements in morning stiffness, joint swelling, and walking times. The supplements are known to be safe and are generally well tolerated: no toxic effects have been observed among patients taking doses as high as 8 grams daily for 12 weeks or longer.
In the United States, curcumin extracts are available as dietary supplements without a prescription. Most manufacturers recommend taking 500 milligrams one to three times daily.
If you enjoy the taste of curry, you can feel good about digging into your favorite Indian and Asian foods. While the active ingredient protects your brain and body, the flavor is sure to delight your taste buds.
Source: Arcamax Health and Fitness/ Rallie McAllister, M.D., M.P.H.,
Chemical Compound in Curry May Combat Alzheimer’s, Cancer
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