As Indian dishes are becoming more popular, the spices used in their cuisine are getting more attention. One of the emblematic ingredients is turmeric, a spice rich in curcumin, which is reported to benefit health in a number of ways, including memory protection.
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What is curcumin?
The chemical compound in question is produced by a plant called Curcuma longa, a relative of ginger, and you are likely to have encountered it as part of the spice called turmeric. It’s found in abundance in curry, which is an integral part of many Indian dishes.
Curcumin and turmeric are often confused, and the yellow spice you use is not the same as pure curcumin: actually, curcumin’s share in the turmeric content makes up only 3%. However, this substance has long been considered to have medicinal properties, and several recent researches suggest that it can benefit the body.
Why is curcumin special?
Besides making dishes tasty, curcumin can affect many processes in the body, including metabolism. Still, it must be noted that its bioavailability leaves much to be desired: if curcumin is taken alone, it is difficult for the bloodstream to absorb it. However, there is a surprising duo of piperine, which is found in black pepper, and curcumin that enhances absorption by the whopping 2000%. That being said, if you want to use the spice containing it, it is recommended that you combine black pepper and turmeric.
Curcumin is best known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Chronic inflammation is thought to cause a variety of diseases, and this chemical is capable of helping reduce it.
A research carried out by UCLA specialists showed that taking curcumin-based supplements can benefit attention and memory in non-demented adults. In a placebo-controlled trial, they demonstrated that taking Theracurmin, a special supplement each dose of which contains 90 mg of the chemical, twice a day can decrease tangle and plaque accumulation in those regions of the brain that modulate memory and mood. It is supposed that such an effect is due to curcumin’s anti-amyloid and anti-inflammatory effects. The former is also said to contribute to protection against Alzheimer’s disease, which is common among old Europeans and Americans, but rarely seen in Indians.
According to a team of investigators from the Baylor Scott and White Research Institute, curcumin is capable of sensitizing pancreatic cancer cells so that they could be affected by gemcitabine, a drug used to treat pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. This way, curcumin-based supplements can be used as part of chemotherapies.
Cardiovascular diseases seem to respond to curcumin intake too, as those who consume food containing the compound can have certain steps of heart disease progressing reversed. Curcumin is reported to benefit the function of the blood vessel lining called endothelium, and according to several researches, its effectiveness can be compared to that of Atorvastatin and other drugs.
Besides reducing inflammation, it also contributes to reduction of oxidation. Other reported effects mean it can be beneficial for the health of those suffering from arthritis, depression, chronic diseases that are age-related, and even cancer.
However, one should be careful when taking curcumin supplements or using the popular spice. People who are predisposed to kidney stones should consult their GP, because turmeric contains oxalate, the share of which makes up about 2%. Also, not all turmeric you can buy is high quality, and it’s often the case that flour, colorants or other substances are added to it without even mentioning it on the label. That is why it’s best to buy organic turmeric, should you decide to use it in your dishes.
Influence of Piperine on the Pharmacokinetics of Curcumin in Animals and Human Volunteers –Thieme-connect.de
Memory and Brain Amyloid and Tau Effects of a Bioavailable Form of Curcumin in Non-Demented Adults: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled 18-Month Trial – Sciencedirect.com
Curcumin sensitizes pancreatic cancer cells to gemcitabine by attenuating PRC2 subunit EZH2, and the lncRNA PVT1 expression – Academic.oup.com