One of the main ingredents in Indian curries may be a new weapon in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) have found that curcumin, part of turmeric, which gives curry its yellow colour, stops the accumulation of destructive beta amyloids which are believed to be responsible for the disease.
In the UCLA study curcumin was crossed the blood-brain barrier to eliminate amyloid plaques. It also attacked the build-up of beta amyloid by as much as 21 per cent. Earlier studies by the same team found that curcumin was also a powerful antioxidant, with anti-inflammatory properties.
Curcumin, is ground from the root of a plant of the ginger family and grows wild in the Himalayas and South Asia. There is a low incidence of Alzheimer’s in India and other curry-eating countries. Turmeric has already been found to slow prostate cancer and is sold in capsules. Doctors believe that it may be used as a drug or supplement to prevent people developing Alzheimer’s in much the same was as statins are used to prevent heart attacks.
Doctors agree that amyloid plaques (abnormal build-ups of a protein fragment known as beta amyloids) are responsible for the memory loss which marks Alzheimer’s.
The results of the study which used mice, is published in the Journal Of Biological Chemistry, suggest that curcumin would not only prevent the build-up in patients who already have the degenerative brain disease, but act to block the plaques developing in the first place.
The UCLA team has now started human trials which could eventually lead to the development of a drug.