Curcumin from Turmeric improves both memory and mood according to a recent UCLA study
Mary McDonough mentioned in a recent interview with Tom & Jerry’s Health Food that she experienced an increased sense of mental clarity as a side benefit to taking Chocolate Tumeries (Turmeric) consistently for the last 6 months. We did some digging around the web to see if others had similar experiences and what we found were that there are quite a few references to a suspected benefit of Turmeric to brain health in various blog posts and articles. The common thread through all this contect was that since Alzheimer’s has very low levels of occurrence in certain districts of India, there was a suspected correlation between Turmeric and improved brain health.
While interesting, this association is far from scientific proof that turmeric prevents Alzheimer’s disease or more broadly, promoted healthier brains in those who have a lot of Turmeric in their diet. We were wondering if there is some solid science to back up these claims so we did some digging to see if we could find some recent human based studies that dove into this hypothesis deeper. What we found was one study in particular that was quite interesting.
The good news is that we found a fairly robust placebo based double blind study on this very topic published in 2018. The study was based out of UCLA and involved roughly 40 participants aged 50 - 90 years who had mild memory complaints. The research was published online Jan. 19 in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
If you consistently take Turmeric, the findings of this study should come as good news.
Direct quote from the report: “These findings suggest that daily oral ingestion of a bioavailable and safe form of curcumin (Turmeric) improves memory performance over an 18-month period in middle-aged and older non-demented adults. Moreover, such daily oral curcumin consumption may lead to less neuropathological accumulation in the amygdala and hypothalamus.”
Just a few of the details
This study titled ‘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’ involved two main evaluation methods;
- Various types of memory tests administered periodically through the 18 month study period.
- Memory was tested along three dimensions. Visual, Verbal and attention . In two of the three dimensions, Verbal and Attention, there was significant improvement over baseline over the 18 months of the study. Visual recall was improved as well but not as statisticaly significant as the other two.
- In addition, tests related to mood (Beck Depression Inventory) showed that those subjects taking Turmeric showed significant improvements.
- Brain scans were administered through the 18 month study period that provide visibility into the formation of Plaques (brain amyloid) and Tau accumulation (neurofibrillary tangles & tangle accumulation). Note; this is what was referenced in the conclusions as ‘neuropathological accumulation’
- The scanning technique employed was a FDDNP-PET (a type of positron emission tomography which provides images of brain plaques & tangles)
- Plaque deposits and Tau were significantly lower in the test group taking Turmeric/Curcumin than the placebo.
In short, those taking high bioavailability Turmeric consistently for 18 months experienced improved cognitive function while brain scans showed decreased levels of plaque & tau, particularly in the Amygdala & Hypothalamus.
While this represents a rigorous study design with reliable results, there were only 40 study participants so there is obviously more work to do to more fully develop and test this hypothesis. That said, the findings are encouraging though if you have a family history of Alzheimer’s/dementia and take a high bioavailability Turmeric supplement (like Tom & Jerry’s chocolate Tumeries) on a daily basis. When viewed through this lens, this study provides an encouraging scientific basis for hope.