7 Benefits of Curcuma longa That Protect Aging Brain
As we grow older, along with the body, our brain experiences certain changes too. Our neurons cannot remain functionally competent for 100 years.
The structural and functional changes that occur in the brain with increasing age leading to its deterioration is known as Brain Aging.
It is characterised by memory loss and brain shrinkage. The cognitive abilities of the brain start deteriorating with age.The person loses the ability to think, react, remember and even talk or walk properly.
It has also been discovered that the brain shrinks and the hippocampal volume decreases with age. The brain cells shrink and the number of synapses decreases.
One of the causes of aging brain is increased oxidative stress. Obesity and excessive production of inflammatory cytokines is a couple of few other reasons which lead to deterioration of brain
Effective measures for prevention of these diseases and delay of the symptoms are necessary for living healthily during old age.
Physical and mental activity may help in combating cognitive decline. Various vitamins and supplements are available in the market for the same purpose.
Combating Aging with the Help of Curcuma longa
Here, we are going to talk about how Turmeric, a natural,plant-basedd spice can be helpful inthe prevention and treatment of the aging brain.
Turmeric is a popular spice native to India. It is obtained from the dried rhizome of the plant Curcuma longa.It is widely used in the food industry because of the golden-yellow color and flavor it provides to the curry.It is also used as a food preservative. Apart from this, Good and bad quality without medical benefits of Turmeric also has a wide application in the health care industry.
Curcumin is the most bioactive compound of turmeric. It is the primary polyphenol of turmeric and responsible for most of its properties.
It is a powerful analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, nematocidal, anti-allergic and anti-septic agent.
It is capable of preventing and curing a number of diseases like diabetes, cancer, anemia, indigestion, Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, diarrhea, insanity and asthma etc.
Let us find out through scientific evidence if Curcuma longa can be useful in delaying aging or alleviate its symptoms or not.
1. It improves cognitive function and memory
When a person starts growing older, he experiences problems in remembering stuff. Concentrating on tasks, learning new things and making decisions becomes difficult.
This is referred to as cognitive impairment. Cognitive impairment is characterized by working memory loss, repetition of questions/ stories, not able to judge or plan, not being able to recognize familiar people, mood swings, vision problems etc. .
Scientists believe that curcumin, the active compound of turmeric has the ability to improve cognitive function.
A number of research studies have been conducted to investigate the usefulness of Curcumin in boosting memory and cognition. In a study conducted by scientists from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne and published in the ‘Journal of Psychopharmacology’, 60 healthy individuals (age: between 50 and 85) were randomly administered with either curcumin (400 mg per day) or placebo for four weeks.
After 1 hour of Curcumin treatment, improved working memory and sustained attention were noted.
4 weeks of Curcumin dosage was successfully ameliorated cognitive impairment, reduced fatigue (by 1.82%) and psychological stress.
However, the actual mechanism is not yet known, it has been suggested that fatigue might be redued because of energy maintenance, AMP-activated protein Kinase, and glucose regulation.
Not only Curcumin supplements are useful for boosting working memory, but the addition of dried powdered curcumin in everyday diet can also be helpful.
Researchers from Monash University conducted a trial with a mere 1 gram of turmeric added to a white bread breakfast of older people suffering from pre-diabetes. They tested the working memory of the subjects before and after a few hours of breakfast.
They found that the addition of only 1 gram of turmeric to an otherwise nutritionally bland breakfast could successfully enhance the working memory over 6 hours in aged individuals.
A study also monitored the effects of curry with a high quantity of Curcumin on the cognitive performance of older individuals. Mini- mental state examination (MMSE) was used to measure the cognitive functions.
It was found that MMSE scores were significantly higher in people with regular curry consumption than others suggesting that Curcumin has positive effects on memory loss and cognitive impairment of the elderly.
What it means?
These studies suggest that Curcumin supplements as well as powdered curcumin are useful for enhancing working memory and preventing cognitive impairment. A modest addition of only 1 gram curcuma longa everyday can do wonders in prevention of memory loss. It alleviates fatigue and tiredness and uplifts the mood.
2. It can protect from Alzheimer’s disease
Age is a major cause of Alzheimer’s disease. It is a common neurodegenerative disease. The tangles form because of improper folding of a protein called Tau. There is accumulation of beta- amyloid in the brain.
This damages the mitochondria in the brain as beta amyloid binds with ABAD enzyme of mitochondria and modulates its function.
The functions of various mitochondrial enzymes decline and oxidative stress increases in AD brain. Dementia is an important characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.
The cognitive impairment is so severe that the person’s efficiency, memory, performance, and social abilities get destroyed. There are changes in the white matter of the brain.
Neurons, blood vessels, and astrocyte glial cells also experience changes with age. Astrocytes protect the blood vessels and secrete growth factors for the formation of new neurons.
It protects the neurons from oxidative stress and prevents beta-amyloid accumulation. Changes in astrocyte functioning can lead to AD.
Curcumin has powerful therapeutic effects against AD. The anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and lipophilic properties of Curcumin make it highly useful for the treatment.It enhances the cognitive functions in an AD brain. It helps to relieve oxidative stress and inhibit the formation of free radicals and beta- amyloid plaque.
A group of scientists performed an experiment to test the efficacy of Curcumin in treating AD.The study lasted for 24 weeks and involved 36 patients suffering from AD.They were randomly administered with either placebo capsules (2g per day) or oral Curcumin (4g per day). Side effects, results of laboratory tests and Alzheimer’s disease assessment scale-cognitive subscale were measured. NPI, ADCS-ADL scores and amyloid beta levels were also studied.
Because of low bioavailability, significant results could not be found but it was seen that Curcumin is generally tolerable by patients.
Another research study found through fluorescence spectroscopy and electron microscopic studies that Curcumin inhibits the formation of amyloid beta fibrils and deposition of amyloid beta peptide.
It has also been seen that aerosolized Curcumin is more effective than intravenous Curcumin injection as it can be easily cross the blood-brain barrier and hence is delivered inside the brain by inhalation.
What it means?
These studies suggest that Alzheimer’s disease is an important consequence of aging. It is characterized by dementia.
Curcumin has neuroprotective effects against AD. It inhibits lipid peroxidation, prevents neuroinflammation and oxidative stress.It prevents the accumulation of beta amyloid in the brain.
3. It is therapeutic in Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegerative disease which develops slowly with increase in age in people.
The nerve cells slowly cease to produce enough dopamine which affects the movements and emotions of the affected individuals.Dopamine helps in transmitting messages between the region filled with dopamine-producing neurons and other regions of the brain.It plays an important role in smooth and coordinated muscle movements.
Symptoms include trembling and stiffness of arms and legs etc, slow movement and poor balance and coordination. PD is not fatal but produces severe consequences like depression, constipation, sleep problems or trouble in performing simple tasks.
Most of the drugs used for the treatment of PD aim at restoring dopamine levels. But they have a number of side effects and are ineffective against tremor, unstable posture and cognitive impairment.Studies suggest that Curcumin can be helpful against PD. Researchers have found that aggregation of alpha-synuclein proteins is an important cause of Parkinson’s disease.
They found that Curcumin can bind to these proteins and prevent their aggregation.This discovery can be very useful information of new and effective drugs against the disease.
The anti-oxidant properties of Curcumin produced therapeutic effects in the animal model of PD by protecting the number of TH-positive cells and Dopamine levels.
Parkinson’s disease is characterized by depletion of thiol anti-oxidant glutathione which causes oxidative stress, aberrant mitochondrial functioning, and cell death.
A group of scientists showed that treatment of dopamine-producing cells with Curcumin restores the levels of glutathione and prevents protein oxidation. It also protects against mitochondrial dysfunction.
What it means?
These studies suggest that Parkinson’s disease, where dopamine levels start falling, can be effectively cured by curcuma longa.It prevents the aggregation of alpha-synuclein proteins and maintains the number of TH-positive cells, levels of dopamine and glutathione protecting against oxidative stress, protein oxidation and mitochondrial dysfunction.
4. It works as an anti-depressant
Depression is a common occurrence due to a decline in cognitive function, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or parkinson’s disease in old age.Interestingly, Curcumin possesses potent anti-depressant properties.The exact mechanism of action of curcumin to produce anti-depressant effects is not well established but it is believed that its effects on serotonin and dopamine levels and monoamine oxidase enzyme are the main reasons of its therapeutic effects.
On the basis of forced swim test in rats, scientists have found that curcumin treatment inhibits the immobility period and increases the levels of serotonin and dopamine.
It also enhances the activity of anti-depressant drugs like fluoxetine. It also inhibits monoamine oxidase activity in mice.
Review of clinical trials investigating the role of curcumin in depression also points out that curcumin is an effective add on therapy for depression.