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UCLA study finds turmeric improves memory and mood

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on January 26, 2018

In memory tests, people taking curcumin saw a 28 per cent improvement over 18 months

Turmeric, the essential ingredient in most of the Indian dietings never cease to surprise with its beneficial effects. The latest is its role in helping people improve their memory and mood.

Consuming curcumin, the active ingredient in a particular form, twice daily has led to improvement in memory and mood in subjects with age related and early stage memory problems, according to a study by researchers of the UCLA, California.

Curcumin is the ingredient in turmeric which has exhibited anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, wound healing properties among several positive outcomes in scientific experiments.

In normal cuisine Turmeric gives curry its yellow color and has been used as a food flavoring, preservative, and an herbal remedy for arthritis, cancer, cardiac and other medical conditions.

In the study published online In the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, the researchers examined the effects of an curcumin supplement on memory performance in people without dementia, as well as its potential impact on plaques and tangles in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

18 month trial

The scientists reported that in the 18 month trial the subjects were given Theracurmin containing 90 mg of curcumin twice daily. The oral Theracurmin led to significant memory and attention benefits.

PET scans performed pre and post-treatment suggested that behavioral and cognitive benefits are associated with decreases in plaque and tangle accumulation in brain regions modulating mood and memory.

“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 Gary Small, director of geriatric psychiatry at UCLA’s Longevity Center . The double-blind, placebo-controlled study involved 40 adults between the ages of 50 and 90 years who had mild memory complaints. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo or 90 milligrams of curcumin twice daily for 18 months.

People who took curcumin experienced significant improvements in their memory and attention abilities, while the people who received placebo did not, Small said. In memory tests, people taking curcumin improved by 28 per cent over 18 months.

Those taking curcumin also had mild improvements in mood and their brain PET scans showed significantly less amyloid and tau signals in the amygdala and hypothalamus than those who took placebos. The amygdala and hypothalamus are regions of the brain that control several memory and emotional functions.

Follow up

The researchers have initiated a follow-up study to explore whether curcumin has antidepressant effect with 132 people (aged 50-90). It includes people with mild depression.

According to the study, subjects will be randomly assigned to one of two treatment groups: either a placebo or the curcumin supplement (465 milligrams of Theracurmin of which 30 mg is curcumin).

The investigators expect the people receiving the curcumin supplement to show less evidence of decline and fewer after 18 months than those receiving the placebo.

Turmeric benefits a hype

The American Chemical Society in January 2017 carried a review of scientific literature which states that though curcumin, continues to be hailed as a natural treatment for a wide range of diseases it is probably not all it’s ground up to be. It cites evidence that, contrary to numerous reports, the compound has limited—if any—therapeutic benefit.

To get to the root of curcumin’s essential medicinal chemistry, the research groups of Michael A Walters and Guido F Pauli teamed up to extract key findings from thousands of scientific articles on the topic.

The review provided evidence that curcumin is unstable under physiological conditions and not readily absorbed by the body, properties that make it a poor therapeutic candidate.

Additionally they could not find evidence of a double blind, placebo controlled clinical trial on curcumin to support its status as a potential cure.

But, the authors say, this doesn’t necessarily mean research on turmeric should halt. Turmeric extracts and preparations could have health benefits, although probably not for the number of conditions currently touted, the article stated.

The researchers suggest that future studies should take a more holistic approach to account for the spice’s chemically diverse constituents that may synergistically contribute to its potential benefits.

Published on January 25, 2018

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