Epidemiologists, researchers that look at populations and disease patterns have long remarked that the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in India is significantly lower than in the US. One reason proposed for this huge difference may be because the Indian population has a high consumption of curcumin in their diet compared to their American counterparts.
Curcumin is the bright orange colouring agent that is the major active compound of the turmeric root and the main component of the masala the backbone of virtually every Indian dish. Besides imparting the rich colour to the food, curcumin is used as a preservative, for taste and more importantly as a medicinal ingredient.
Every Indian household uses ground up turmeric root as a quick remedy for various ailments from diarrhoea, to gastric upset, ulcers (internally and external), diabetes, liver problems, anti-parasite, injuries etc. In fact if someone happens to sustain an injury e.g. falling off a bicycle or a tree no doubt trying to either retrieve their kite and/or plucking the juiciest mangoes, mothers would quickly warm up some milk with added turmeric root and given copious amounts throughout the day until the swelling subsides. The reason for the milk is that Indian mothers have long known that boiling milk will enhance the effectiveness of the curcumin present in the milk.
It is now widely known that curcumin is poorly bioavailable meaning that very little actually gets absorbed and taken to the site of action i.e. the site of injury in the above case and thus large quantities are required. Quite large in fact upwards of 4 grams of curcumin and not the turmeric root (which contains around 1-2% curcumin) and in many cases 8-10 grams prove very little is getting absorbed! This poor bioavailability has hampered the wide use of curcumin as a drug and/or as a natural health product. Up till very recently this bioavailability issue has stalled any research of use of curcumin in Alzheimer research. That is until this year.
In October issue of Nutrition Journal Researchers at the University of Ohio used a special form of curcumin called Longvida which had previously been demonstrated ( Gota et-al 2010 human bone cancer study) to be more than 100 fold more bioavailable (the highest of any formulation on the market!) and is licensed from the famed UCLA (university of California Los Angeles). UCLA scientists tested over two hundred formulations before they came up with Longvida formula. Furthermore, the scientists also conducted a long term toxicity study to show that there are no untoward side effects of such a formula. Most products on the market rarely conduct such safety studies.
The researchers led by Dr Robert DiSilvestro looked at one of the marker of Alzheimer’s disease called Beta Amyloid Plaque (BAP)- a small protein that is now thought to be one of the two culprits in AD. The other culprit being tau protein tangles.
Using only 80mg of Longvida curcumin once a day to nineteen healthy subjects for just thirty days showed a significant decrease of BAP as well as other health markers like free radicals, triglycerides, sICAM (a marker for blood vessel health), U-CRC (a maker for inflammation) as well as raising nitric oxide (NO) a molecule thought to reduce AD and catalase an important enzyme for cell protection.
Many scientists working outside the natural product research are genuinely surprised that a natural compound can affect so many health markers and thus disease processes. Yet, this is typical of many natural products like green tea, polyphenols, resveratrol etc. but particularly curcumin that impacts over thirty or so pathways in the carcinogenic process alone.
The importance of such a study is several folds: first, the dose used was very small, second significant results were achieved within just thirty days of intake, third, there were improvements in health in other non-related AD markers like cholesterol, antioxidant capacity and inflammation.
Finally, the fact that these results were achieved with a healthy population suggests that even more significant results would be achieved in diseased population. Reduction of BAP within thirty days is unheard of. This study should be an impetus for a larger study.
You may also be interested in:
DiSilvestro R A et-al “Diverse effects of a low dose supplement of lapidated curcumin in healthy middle aged people” Nutrition Journal 2012; 11-79
Gota V S et-al “Safety and pharmacokinetics of solid lipid curcumin particle formulation in osteosarcoma patients and healthy volunteers”
J Agri Food Chem 2010;58:2095-2099