Discover the Simple Natural Solution to Lifelong Cognitive Health: Is Turmeric it the next miracle herb? Part I & II
By: Prof. Meenakshi Bhattacharjee
Are you concerned about maintaining the health of your brain as you age? You’re not alone. Losing one’s memory and mental abilities to cognitive decline is something we all fear, and the current statistics on the prevalence of cognitive decline in this country are not pretty. By age 65, sadly 1 in 8 Americans will suffer from severe cognitive decline, and by age 80, an astonishing 1 in 2 will.
Researchers have been working for years to develop an effective treatment. But one “miracle” drug after another has failed to live up to its promises and it’s becoming more and more apparent that pharmaceuticals are not the solution.
Unfortunately, the medical establishment is so narrowly focused on finding an elusive “cure” that scientifically proven prevention strategies are often ignored.
You may be familiar with turmeric as the bright yellow spice that is commonly found in curry powder. Turmeric has a long history as a healing herb and culinary spice in India. Interestingly, India has the highest per capita consumption of turmeric AND the lowest incidence of cognitive decline worldwide. Curcumin, found in the root of the turmeric plant, is one of the most powerful natural brain protecting substances on Earth. Commonly called curcuminoids, the most important of which is Curcumin, is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant.
Previously it was believed that neurons weren’t able to divide and multiply after early childhood. However, it is now known that this does happen. The neurons are capable of forming new connections, but in certain areas of the brain, they can also multiply and increase in number. One of the main drivers of this process is Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which is a type of growth hormone that functions in the brain. Many common brain disorders have been linked to decreased levels of this hormone. This includes depression and Alzheimer’s disease. Interestingly, curcumin can increase brain levels of BDNF. By doing this, it may be effective at delaying or even reversing many brain diseases and age-related decreases in brain function. There is also the possibility that it could help improve memory and make you smarter.
The hallmark process associated with certain types of cognitive decline is the formation in the brain of abnormal protein structures. Normally when malformed proteins are formed within the brain, the immune system sends out cells known as macrophages, which engulf and destroy the proteins. If this ordinary function fails, defective proteins accumulate in the brain and cognitive decline can follow and one key feature of Alzheimer’s disease is a buildup of protein tangles called amyloid plaques. This disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease in the world and a leading cause of dementia. Unfortunately, no good treatment is available for Alzheimer’s yet. Therefore, preventing it from showing up in the first place is of utmost importance.
Recent research is showing that curcumin encourages the immune system to send macrophages to the brain. A landmark clinical trial involved people with severe cognitive decline that measured the effects of curcumin. Amazingly, the participants taking curcumin had significantly higher levels of dissolved abnormal proteins in their blood compared to those in the placebo group.
This study showed that curcumin has the ability to effectively pass into the brain, bind to beta-amyloid plaques and assist the body in their breakdown. Curcumin is one of the only substances known to have such a profound protective effect on the brain. It is known that inflammation and oxidative damage also play a role in Alzheimer’s disease and we know curcumin has beneficial effects on both.