Curry consumption and improved mental function in the elderly - By Dr Yasmin Neggers
Turmeric, commonly known as “Haldi” or yellow spice curry, is widely used among Asians as a food flavoring and preservative and as an herbal remedy for the treatment of various skin and hepatic disorders and rheumatism. Curcumin and other products isolated from turmeric are well known to possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In the Indian subcontinent, both Aryurvedic and Yunani medical texts describe health benefits from turmeric paste or powder when applied either topically or consumed in various food products. Interestingly, it has also been purported that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in India among elderly between 70-79 years of age is four times less than that of the U.S. (1)
Recently several epidemiologic studies have suggested a link between curry consumption and better mental performance in the elderly. Evidence suggests that curcumin(1-7-bis (4-hydroxy-3 methoxyphenyl)-1, 6 heptadiene-2, 5-dione) and other products from turmeric, the dried rhizome of Curcumalonga, may be useful for prevention or treatment of some age related degenerative diseases (2).
Curcuminoids have also been shown to be to be powerful antiatherogenic agents and therefore have potential to decrease the risk of heart and artery diseases. Studies indicate that daily intake of approximately 200 mg (1ounce =28, 000 mg) of curcumin and other extracts lower the peroxidation of both low and high density lipoproteins there by reducing the initiation of heart disease (3). Another study showed that both low (160 ppm) and high dose (5, 000 ppm) doses of dietary curcumin significantly lowered the oxidized protein interleukin-1a involved in plaque formation in the brain. Plaque formation and ß-amyloid deposits in the brain are linked with development of Alzheimer’s disease. A recent study published in the prestigious and widely circulated American Journal of Epidemiology journal reported that in a large elderly non-demented Asians population, frequent curry consumption was significantly associated with improved cognitive function (4). The authors compared Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores for three categories of regular curry consumption, taking into account known socio-demographic, health and behavioral factors associated with MMSE scores. Those who consumed curry “occasionally” and “often or very often”, had significantly better mental scores than did subjects who “never or rarely” consumed curry.
Subjects who consumed curry often had 49 % risk reduction in mental impairment as compared to those subjects who consumed curry never/rarely. These results indicate that mental performance significantly improved from curry consumption in non-demented elderly Asians.
In view of its efficacy and remarkably low toxicity, frequent curry intake containing curcumin shows promise for the prevention of both Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease.
1. Masuda JA et al. Antioxidant activity of tropical ginger extracts
and analysis of the contained Curcuminoids. J Agric Food Chem.
2. Ammon HP, Wahl MA. Pharmacology of Curcuma longa. Planta
Med 1991;57:1-7 .
3. Miquel J et al. The Curcumin antioxidants: pharmacological effects
of and prospects for future clinical use. A review. Arch Gerontol
Geriatr. 2002; 34:37-46.
4. Ng tze-pin et al. Curry consumption and cognitive function in the
elderly. Am J Epidemiol. 2006;164:898-906