Why are the rates of Alzheimer’s disease in India among the world’s lowest? It may be the curry, a food staple in India, suggest researchers. Curcumin, the yellow pigment in curry spice, will be investigated further for its potential in prevention of Alzheimer’s disease after tests on mice found it can block and break up the brain plaques that cause the disease.

The researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles found the low molecular weight of curcumin allows it to penetrate the blood-brain barrier effectively and bind to beta amyloid, which forms the disease-causing plaques. In fact, they found it is more effective than other drugs currently being investigated for Alzheimer’s treatment.

“The prospect of finding a safe and effective new approach to both prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease is tremendously exciting,” said investigator Gregory Cole, the associate director of the UCLA Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

“Curcumin has been used for thousands of years as a safe anti-inflammatory in a variety of ailments as part of Indian traditional medicine,” Cole added.

The researchers are planning further clinical trials on humans to establish safe and effective doses in aging patients.

NPIcenter, Jan 4, 2005