The race is on to find a cheap way to treat Alzheimer’s and a number of researchers are focussing on the compound curcumin which only occurs naturally in Turmeric and is responsible for its bright yellow colour.
Alzheimer’s, which is responsible for half of all dementia cases worldwide, is marked by two changes in the brain. Firstly, barnacle-like piles of a protein fragment called amyloid beta develop in the brain. An obvious conclusion is that by blocking or dissolving the build up of amyloid beta you may be able to prevent or cure the disease.
The second cause is the build-up of tangles of nerve fibres caused by tau, another abnormal protein, as reported in the Daily Telegraph recently.
Studies seem to give varying reasons as to why and how curcumin treats the disease, but all seem to agree that it is a way forward. The most common explanation is that curcumin helps reduce beta amyloid plaque in the brain and also prevents plaque buildup in people who don’t have the disease.
So far, the main evidence for curing Alzheimer’s comes from a study carried out on mice where on trial reported a 30% reduction in Alzheimer’s associated brain plaque in just one week.
But in October 2012 Ralph Martins, Edith Cowan University, Australia, began the first clinical trial in using curcumin in an ageing population. ‘What we currently know as clinical Alzheimer’s disease is probably an end stage of disease’ he commented, believing that the disease is fermenting in people’s brain for as much as 20 years before it actually manifests itself in memory loss. One third of healthy normal people have the toxic protein amyloid in their brain and it will be another 15 – 20 years before any further symptoms develop.
In his experiment, half the 100 residents of a retirement village in southern Sydney will receive supplements of Bio-Curcumin whilst the others will be given a placebo. The efficacy of the treatment will be measured using memory tests, MRI and brain scans at the start and end of the year long study.
Those wishing to improve their own chances of avoiding this debilitating disease will want to know if self-dosing is possible. As yet there is no recommended dose of curcumin to ward off Alzheimer’s. To date, the more than 1,000 published studies on curcumin in animals and people have used a fairly wide range of dosing. The Linus Pauling Institute reports that a six-month study with people taking oral supplements of 4 g curcumin daily was safe, and gives an indication of the sorts of dose needed, but up to 10g was deemed safe in another study.
Turmeric itself only contains 2-9% curcumin, so concentrated supplements may be the way forward if this becomes a recognised solution. It has also been shown that vitamin D supplements aid the efficient absorption of curcumin.
However curcumin has also been shown to be a very powerful antioxidant effective for cancer prevention, arthritis, liver disease, irritable bowel syndrome and depression. It seems that a weekly curry can only do you good!
For more information:
Daily Telegraph ‘A Glimmer of Hope for Alzheimer’s’ 6 Jan 2013
Edith Cowan University Medical Sciences Newspage 12 Oct 2012
Chemical and Engineering News 30 Jul 2012
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