The very latest in the scientific application of diet and nutritional supplements to relieve Alzheimer's comes from a six-month, double-blinded, randomized clinical study of curcumin in the elderly who already have Alzheimer's disease in China.
Curcumin is the anti-oxidant found in abundance in the yellowish orange spice turmeric, used in curries. In India, where curry is a very common dish, Alzheimer's is relatively rare.
How can curcumin help Alzheimer's disease? Answering the question requires just a little background on how Alzheimer's changes the brain.
Alzheimer's disease is caused by at least two different kinds of abnormalities in the brain, neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques.
The "tangles" are bundles of twisted filaments that consist primarily of a protein called tau. In healthy brains, these filaments inside the neurons of the brain act as delivery tubes for nutrients. In Alzheimer's, the filaments become entangled and cease to provide the neurons with nutrition.
Amyloid plaques are collections of cellular debris that accumulate in the synapse, or electrical junction, between brain cells. Consisting primarily of a protein called beta-amyloid, the plaques stop communication between the neurons and eventually cause them to die.
Scientists have known for several years from laboratory studies that curcumin seems to stop the accumulation of plaque between brain cells. Whether these findings in the laboratory would be useful in the treatment of real people was the purpose of the clinical study.
So how can you get your curcumin?
The most reliable way to get the benefits of this potent anti-oxidant is to take a curcumin supplement. If you'd prefer curry, however, 1 teaspoon of turmeric a day should be enough to make a difference.
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Baum L, Lam CW, Cheung SK, Kwok T, Lui V, Tsoh J, Lam L, Leung V, Hui E, Ng C, Woo J, Chiu HF, Goggins WB, Zee BC, Cheng KF, Fong CY, Wong A, Mok H, Chow MS, Ho PC, Ip SP, Ho CS, Yu XW, Lai CY, Chan MH, Szeto S, Chan IH, Mok V. Six-month randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, pilot clinical trial of curcumin in patients with Alzheimer disease. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2008 Feb;28(1):110-3.