Saturday, February 28, 2015

Turmeric: Surprising Benefits for Brain Health

The common spice, turmeric, has been used in various types of treatments for dementia and traumatic brain injury.  Research is also showing surprisingly powerful effects of turmeric on Alzheimer's disease (AD)1.

A growing body of evidence indicates that oxidative stress, free radicals, beta-amyloid plaque, metal toxicity, and abnormal inflammatory reactions contribute to AD pathology.  Due to the various effects of turmeric, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and lipophilic (an affinity for fats) properties, decreased amyloid plaque, metal-chelation, and decreased microglia formation, the overall memory in AD patients using turmeric in studies has improved.

In one 2013 study in particular2, older rats experienced a "remarkable restoration" of brain function when given turmeric, especially the ability of vessels in the brain to relax and allow blood to flow freely.  The treated rats also experienced a reduction in reactive oxygen species (ROS), which is associated with decreased oxidative stress and cell damage.

The effects of turmeric on AD were also demonstrated in a 2012 case study3 on three patients with "very severe" manifestations of the disease: irritability, agitation, anxiety, apathy, incontinence, and wonderings.  The patients were given 764 of turmeric every day for 12 weeks.  The results were that "behavioral symptoms improved remarkably as a result of the turmeric treatment."  In two of the tree patients, "they came to recognize their family within 1 year treatment."  

Turmeric is a common spice that can be added to food.  However, therapeutic levels such as the ones used in the studies are easier to obtain via turmeric-containing food supplements.  Additional good news is that even higher levels in supplement form are not usually expensive.

1. Ann Indian Acad Neurol. 2008 Jan-Mar; 11(1): 13–19.
2.  Cell Physiol Biochem. 2013;32(5):1167-77. doi: 10.1159/000354516. Epub 2013 Nov 11.
3.  Ayu. 2012 Oct-Dec; 33(4): 499–504