Preliminary research seems hopeful that a common curry spice may help decrease plaque build-up in the brain, one of the leading factors in Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s involves the accumulation of a substance called amyloid beta-peptide (Abeta), as well as oxidative damage and inflammation. Alzheimer’s risk is reduced with the increased intake of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents.
A study from UCLA-Veterans Affairs suggests that curcumin, the yellow pigment found in curry spice, slows the build-up of destructive Abeta plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and also breaks up existing plaques. Curcumin is derived from the roots of the turmeric plant.
Researchers at the Department of Medicine at UCLA investigated whether curcumin might be beneficial in Alzheimer’s to reduce Abeta accumulation. Using both lab studies and test mice, researchers found that the low molecular weight and structure of curcumin allow it to penetrate the blood-brain barrier effectively and bind to Abeta. The team’s body of research into curcumin has prompted the UCLA Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center to begin human clinical trials to further evaluate curcumin’s protective and therapeutic effects.
Researchers at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology found that curcumin could also impact ovarian cancer cell growth. They studied the effects of curcumin on ovary cancer cells in vitro, after being treated with various concentrations of curcumin for six to 24 hours.
They found the growth of cancer cells was inhibited significantly and that some cancer cells even appeared to die. Researchers concluded that curcumin could significantly inhibit the growth of ovary cancer cells.
Sources: J Biol Chem. 2005 Feb 18;280(7):5892-901; J Huazhong Univ Sci Technolog Med Sci. 2004;24(1):55-8