A new study suggests that older adults who supplement daily with curcumin improve their memory and attention.
You may know curcumin as the active component of turmeric (Curcuma longa) and for giving curry its bright yellow color. The ingredient has also been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years.
Among its health benefits, curcumin has antioxidant properties that may protect the brain from age-related decline. Because the brain is especially susceptible to oxidative stress with age, interest in curcumin over the last few years has increased significantly in the scientific community. More and more researchers are examining this ingredient to learn more about its therapeutic properties.
In the latest study, published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, researchers examined curcumin’s effect on memory, attention, and accumulation of beta-amyloid and tau proteins – which are considered markers of cognitive aging – in healthy adults.
“This study indicates the importance of daily curcumin supplementation as it may improve memory and attention,” said Dr. Zhaoping Li, a co-author of the study, professor of clinical medicine at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and an Isagenix Scientific Advisory Board member.
The double-blind, parallel designed study randomly assigned 40 individuals between the ages of 50 and 90, with mild memory complaints, to either daily supplementation with a highly bioavailable form of curcumin (90 milligrams twice per day) or placebo for 18 months. (Note: Isagenix Brain Boost & Renewal™ contains 200 milligrams of curcumin in each serving.)
The study excluded participants if they had memory problems beyond that of those associated with normal aging, such as dementia.
The participants performed a battery of tests to assess neurocognitive and memory outcomes at six-month intervals throughout the study. In addition, 30 subjects completed positron emission tomography (PET) scans, which provide imaging of brain beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles, markers of cognitive aging.
The amygdala, part of the brain that performs a role in memory processing, decision making, and emotional responses, as well as the hypothalamus, part of the brain that also plays a role in processing memory responses, can be affected by the accumulation of tau tangles and plaque formation.
Results of the study show those who consumed curcumin daily for 18 months improved memory and attention scores, as well as showed decreases in accumulation of brain plaque and tangle accumulation associated with mood and memory. Those in the placebo group showed no significant changes over the 18 months. In fact, memory function in the curcumin supplementation group improved 28 percent on average compared to the placebo.
“Curcumin’s possible brain health benefits may rise from powerful antioxidant properties that are especially important as we age,” Dr. Li said.
Small GW, Siddarth P, Li Z, et al. Memory and brain amyloid and tau effects of a bioavailable form of curcumin in non-demented adults: a double-blind, placebo-controlled 18-month trial. Am J Geriat Psych. ePub ahead of print. 2017 Oct 27.