Known as the ‘golden spice’ of India, turmeric could just be one of the most effective and powerful nutritional supplements on the planet. There are literally dozens of high quality published studies showing it has incredible benefits for the brain and body. In case you didn’t already know, turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color and it has been used in India for thousands of years as a spice and medicinal herb. Turmeric contains compounds called curcuminoids. The most active form is called curcumin and as you’ll soon find out it has some very powerful anti-aging health benefits.
An active compound found in the Indian spice turmeric could help improve memory and ease depression among those with age-related mental decline, new research suggests. Scientists at UCLA gathered 40 volunteers between 50 and 90 years old, all with some memory complaints but none with dementia. Each person was randomly assigned to take either a supplement of curcumin or a placebo pill twice a day for 18 months; over that period they were given memory tests, mood questionnaires, and brain scans to detect the clumps of plaque associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The results were striking: Those taking curcumin saw a 28 percent improvement in their memory function, compared with a slight decline for those in the placebo group. They also had better mood scores and less plaque buildup in two brain regions responsible for memory, decision making, and emotion. “Exactly how curcumin exerts its effects is not certain,” study leader Gary Small tells Forbes.com. “But it may be due to its ability to reduce brain inﬂammation, which has been linked to both Alzheimer’s disease and major depression.”
A recent UCLA research review discusses the protective factors of curcumin (an extract of turmeric root), one of the main ingredients of curry powder, against Alzheimer’s disease. Substantial evidence suggests that it may inhibit destructive plaque accumulation in the brain, as well as break up existing plaques.
India, where curry powder is a dietary staple, has one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s disease. And the good news doesn’t end there: curcumin’s potent anti-inflammatory and free-radical-scavenging properties make it a weapon in the dietary arsenal against cancer, diabetes and high cholesterol. These findings are based on international studies along with Columbia University’s research in the United States.
Researchers are finding that curcumin can reduce anxiety/depression, promote neurite growth and induce brain plasticity. Its role in protecting brain health is now taking the scientific world by storm.
Curcumin’s remarkable ability to enhance neurite outgrowth (and therefore, neuronal plasticity), comes from its ability to regulate a unique biochemical signaling molecule called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).12-16
BDNF promotes neurite outgrowth, promotes brain-cell survival, and boosts synaptic plasticity—all of which help to build and maintain the neuronal circuits that let us learn, think, and remember. In essence, it’s what allows us to exist as individual humans.
It was only in late 2016 and early 2017 that scientists began to appreciate how powerfully curcumin promotes production and activation of BDNF in brain tissue.
Piecing these studies together gives us a nearly-complete picture of how curcumin produces dramatic neuroprotective effects that contribute to improvements in age-related brain disorders.
Curcumin’s unique ability to upregulate BDNF secretion results in greater neurite outgrowth and, subsequently, improved brain plasticity—the very connections that are necessary to preserve cognition and memory.
Healthy aging requires a healthy brain. The brain and its blood vessels are vulnerable to the same inflammation and oxidative stress that endanger blood vessels and other vital structures throughout the body.
Research is revealing that these same factors are involved in mental depression, neurodegeneration, stroke, and even brain cancer.
Curcumin is showing promise in battling all five of the leading age-related threats to brain health.
Curcumin’s multitargeted properties intervene in a host of critical factors involved in neurodegeneration, helping to preserve youthful cognition, memory, and learning.
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