Turmeric is a spice that has been the subject of many studies with respect to easing one of the most debilitating aspects of old age – dementia. It contains a powerful antioxidant called curcumin and is used widely in India where some of the lowest rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease occur. Dementia from Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form and those with diabetes and blood pressure issues are at higher risk for dementia as well. Given that the rates of diabetes and hypertension worldwide are rising rapidly, exploring new forms of treatment and prevention of dementia is critical.
Turmeric with its anti-inflammatory effects may well have a role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s patients are distinguished by their buildup of beta-amyloid plaques of protein in their brains. In a study cited in the Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology, mice with Alzheimer’s disease decreased their levels of plaque by 40% when given low doses of curcumin (turmeric) vs. the mice not treated with the curcumin. Curcumin was also seen to increase the activity of macrophages whose function is to clear foreign proteins from the body.
Help in early stages of diabetes: A study out of Taiwan and reported in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition tested the working memory of men and women aged 60 and over with untreated pre-diabetes. They gave each subject either one gram of turmeric or a placebo at breakfast. The test group showed better cognition in the following 6 hour period.
Anything that could strengthen the heart is also a good hedge against dementia. Many older people experience multi-infarct dementia resulting from mini-strokes which are due to problems with blood circulation. When blood flow is impeded damage to the brain and heart occurs. The cumulative effects of these strokes could lead to serious health issues and a spiraling decline that could be fatal. As an antioxidant inhibiting the formation of free radicals, turmeric or curcumin could be a measure toward increasing heart health.
One study showed that fruit flies that consume turmeric extended their longevity and had their mobility longer than fruit flies that did not. Turmeric also has cleansing effects and is available in supplement form, but since it does interact with some drugs, discuss its use and the use of any supplement with your doctor.
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