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Friday, August 12, 2011

Curry, the new weapon in the war on Alzheimer's

Curry, the new weapon in the war on Alzheimer's

It probably won't be our main priority when deciding what takeaway to order.

But curries – so often criticised by advocates of healthy eating – may protect against Alzheimer's disease.

Eating a curry two or three times a week could help prevent the onset of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, an expert said yesterday.
According to Professor Murali Doraiswamy, the magic ingredient is curcumin, a component of the spice turmeric.

Curcumin prevents the spread of harmful amyloid plaques found in the brain of Alzheimer's sufferers, he said.

These plaques are thought to play a key role in symptoms such as memory loss and mental impairment.

Professor Doraiswamy, who grew up in the southern Indian city of Madras, which is famous for its fiery curries, said: 'There is very solid evidence that curcumin binds to plaques, and basic research on animals engineered to produce human amyloid plaques has shown benefits.

'Turmeric has been studied not just in Alzheimer's research but for a variety of conditions, such as cancer and arthritis.

Turmeric is often referred to as the spice of life in ancient Indian medical lore.' A trial is under way at the University of California, Los Angeles, to test curcumin's effects in Alzheimer's patients and specifically on amyloid plaque proteins.

Similar research is about to start at Southampton University, although some British experts suggested that large amounts of curry would have to be eaten to counteract some of the brain changes that are characteristic of Alzheimer's.

Professor Doraiswamy, of the Department of Psychiatry, at Duke University Medical Centre, in Durham, North Carolina, said human studies will build on laboratory research.

He told delegates at the Royal College of Psychiatrists' annual meeting in Liverpool: 'You can modify a mouse so that at about 12 months its brain is riddled with plaques. If you feed the rodent a curcuminrich diet it dissolves these plaques.'

He added: 'Studies looking at populations show that people who eat a curry meal two or three times a week seem to have a lower risk for dementia.' Turmeric is also found in mustard and Professor Doraiswamy predicted a day when those unable, or unwilling, to eat curries might be advised to take a daily 'curry pill'.

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