Curcumin, the key chemical in turmeric used in everything from mild kormas to the hottest vindaloos, is believed to delay or prevent dementia symptoms.
A study of middle-aged and elderly people found those who popped a capsule of the stuff three times a day had better memories than those given a dummy pill. It adds to evidence that older people living in cultures where curry is a staple have better cognitive function and a lower prevalence of dementia.
The yellow spice turmeric was identified as the most probable reason for this, thanks to curcumin.
The year-long trial published in the British Journal of Nutrition found evidence curcumin blocks rogue proteins called beta amyloid, which clumps together and destroys neurons. In the study 96 participants aged between 40 and 90 were given either a daily placebo or 1,500 mg of curcumin for 12 months.
In tests of verbal and memory skills, those taking the dummy pill suffered a decline in mental function after just six months that was not observed in those having the curcumin.
Dr Stephanie Rainey-Smith, of Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia, said, “Curcumin therapy in animals has produced positive cognitive and behavioural outcomes; results of human trials, however, have been inconsistent.
“In this study, we report the results of a 12-month, randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind study that investigated the ability of a curcumin formulation to prevent cognitive decline in a population of community-dwelling older adults.”