With more and more of the aging population affected by Alzheimer’s disease, and clinical trials for new medications often providing underwhelming results, a new study in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry may be especially promising. It finds that taking a daily dose of curcumin, the compound in turmeric root that gives curry its yellow color, may not only prevent memory problems from worsening over time, but actually improve them. And perhaps most noteworthy, these changes were seen not only in the participants’ cognitive capacities, but also in their brain cells.
The team, led by UCLA’s Gary Small, randomized 40 people between the ages of 50 and 90 to take a twice-daily 90-mg curcumin supplement or placebo for 18 months. The participants all had mild memory problems, but didn’t have Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia. At the study’s outset, they took tests of memory and cognition, filled out questionnaires to measure mood and depression, and underwent brain scans so the team could look at deposition of “brain gunk”—amyloid-beta plaques and tau “tangles,” the two hallmarks of Alzheimer’s.
Every six months over the study’s 18 month period,
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