Curry may keep elderly minds sharp

Curry may keep elderly minds sharp

Thu Oct 26, 12:10 PM ET

A diet containing curry may help protect the aging brain, according a study of elderly Asians in which increased curry consumption was associated with better cognitive performance on standard tests.

Curcumin, found in the curry spice turmeric, possesses potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

It’s known that long-term users of anti-inflammatory drugs have a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, although these agents can have harmful effects in the stomach, liver and kidney, limiting their use in the elderly.

Antioxidants, such as vitamin E, have been shown to protect neurons in lab experiments but have had limited success in alleviating cognitive decline in patients with mild-to-moderate dementia.

In their study, Dr. Tze-Pin Ng
from National University of Singapore and colleagues compared scores on
the Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) for three categories of regular curry
consumption in 1,010 nondemented Asians who were between 60 and 93
years old in 2003.

Most of the study subjects consumed curry at
least occasionally (once every 6 months), 43 percent ate curry at least
often or very often (between monthly and daily) while 16 percent said
they never or rarely ate curry.

After taking into account
factors that could impact test results, they found that people who
consumed curry "occasionally" and "often or very often" had
significantly better MMSE scores than did those who "never or rarely"
consumed curry.

"Even with the low and moderate levels of curry
consumption reported by the respondents, better cognitive performance
was observed," Ng and colleagues report.]

These results, they
note, provide "the first epidemiologic evidence supporting a link
between curry consumption and cognitive performance that has been
suggested by a large volume of earlier experimental evidence."

Curry
is used widely by people in India and "interestingly," the prevalence
of Alzheimer’s disease among India’s elderly ranks is fourfold less
than that seen in the United States.

"In view of its efficacy
and remarkably low toxicity," curry shows promise for the prevention of
Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers conclude.

SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology, November 1, 2006.

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