Brain health – Curry recommended

Dr Paul Clayton 2005

In India, the home of curry, there are very few cases of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) – a fact that has long puzzled researchers. Regular readers will know that the flavonoids in green tea probably protect against Alzheimer’s – and new research has found that flavonoids in the curry spice turmeric (known as curcuminoids) play an equally important, complementary role.

Using mouse models of AD, a research team from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) reported that curcumin was capable of binding to proteins in the brain known as small beta-amyloid species, thus blocking the formation of amyloid plaque. This is crucial, as amyloid formation plays a central role in the development of the disease. This study was done using samples of mouse brain tissue in vitro; but in the next experiment, which has made AD researchers all over the world sit up and pay attention, the UCLA team proved that curcumin given in food to mice entered the brain in significant amounts, and bound to amyloid plaques in exactly the same way.

These results were so exciting that the UCLA team has already begun clinical trials in patients with early Alzheimer’s Disease, which will report early in 2007. I for one am convinced that the trials will prove positive, as predicted in the first edition of Health Defence which was actually written in 1995. (Although I wasn’t sure exactly how the flavonoids might work.)

When the results are published, an enterprising drug company will probably bring out a synthetic version of the curry spice as a high-priced medicine – but why wait? If you are concerned about keeping your brain cells alive, regular curries (or curcuminoid supplements), combined with green tea flavonoids which act at a slightly different part of the AD sequence and therefore offer additional protection, are the best insurance policy available.


Yang F, Lim GP, Begum AN, Ubeda OJ, Simmons MR, Ambegaokar SS, Chen PP, Kayed R, Glabe CG, Frautschy SA and Cole GM, ‘Curcumin Inhibits Formation of Beta-Amyloid Oligomers and Fibrils, Binds Plaques, and Reduces Amyloid in Vivo‘, J Biol Chem 280(7):5892-5901, February 18 2005

Park S-Y, Kim, DSHL, ‘Discovery of Natural Products from Curcuma longa that Protect Cells from Beta-Amyloid Insult: A Drug Discovery Effort against Alzheimer’s Disease’, J Nat Prod 65(9):1227-1231, 2002