Curcumin improves memory and mood
Twice-daily supplements boosted cognitive power over 18
January 23, 2018
University of California – Los Angeles
Daily consumption of a certain form of curcumin — the
substance that gives Indian curry its bright color — improved memory and mood
in people with mild, age-related memory loss.Lovers of Indian food, give
yourselves a second helping: Daily consumption of a certain form of curcumin —
the substance that gives Indian curry its bright color — improved memory and
mood in people with mild, age-related memory loss, according to the results of
a study conducted by UCLA researchers.
The research, published online Jan. 19 in the American
Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, examined the effects of an easily absorbed
curcumin supplement on memory performance in people without dementia, as well
as curcumin’s potential impact on the microscopic plaques and tangles in the
brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Found in turmeric, curcumin has previously been shown to
have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in lab studies. It also has
been suggested as a possible reason that senior citizens in India, where
curcumin is a dietary staple, have a lower prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease
and better cognitive performance.
“Exactly how curcumin exerts its effects is not
certain, but it may be due to its ability to reduce brain inflammation, which
has been linked to both Alzheimer’s disease and major depression,” said
Dr. Gary Small, director of geriatric psychiatry at UCLA’s Longevity Center and
of the geriatric psychiatry division at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience
and Human Behavior at UCLA, and the study’s first author.
The double-blind, placebo-controlled study involved 40
adults between the ages of 50 and 90 years who had mild memory complaints.
Participants were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo or 90
milligrams of curcumin twice daily for 18 months.
All 40 subjects received standardized cognitive assessments
at the start of the study and at six-month intervals, and monitoring of
curcumin levels in their blood at the start of the study and after 18 months.
Thirty of the volunteers underwent positron emission tomography, or PET scans,
to determine the levels of amyloid and tau in their brains at the start of the
study and after 18 months.
The people who took curcumin experienced significant
improvements in their memory and attention abilities, while the subjects who
received placebo did not, Small said. In memory tests, the people taking
curcumin improved by 28 percent over the 18 months.
Those taking curcumin also had mild improvements in mood,
and their brain PET scans showed significantly less amyloid and tau signals in
the amygdala and hypothalamus than those who took placebos.
The amygdala and hypothalamus are regions of the brain
that control several memory and emotional functions.
Four people taking curcumin, and two taking placebos,
experienced mild side effects such as abdominal pain and nausea.
The researchers plan to conduct a follow-up study with a
larger number of people. That study will include some people with mild
depression so the scientists can explore whether curcumin also has
antidepressant effects. The larger sample also would allow them to analyze
whether curcumin’s memory-enhancing effects vary according to people’s genetic
risk for Alzheimer’s, their age or the extent of their cognitive problems.
“These results suggest that taking this relatively
safe form of curcumin could provide meaningful cognitive benefits over the
years,” said Small, UCLA’s Parlow-Solomon Professor on Aging.
Materials provided by University of California – Los
Angeles. Original written by Leigh Hopper. Note: Content may be edited for
style and length.
1 Gary W. Small, Prabha Siddarth,
Zhaoping Li, Karen J. Miller, Linda Ercoli, Natacha D. Emerson, Jacqueline
Martinez, Koon-Pong Wong, Jie Liu, David A. Merrill, Stephen T. Chen, Susanne
M. Henning, Nagichettiar Satyamurthy, Sung-Cheng Huang, David Heber, Jorge R.
Barrio. 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. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 2017; DOI: