The many benefits of turmeric are well-established—from its cancer fighting properties to its ability to treat depression. A newer study indicates that the bright yellow root could also protect the brain from age-related brain dysfunctions, including things like stroke, dementia, and neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
According to the study, published in the journal Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry, this brain-protection effect is a result of something called uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) and its role in reducing oxidative stress in the brain.
As GreenMedInfo reports, curcumin, the compound in turmeric that gives it its distinctive color, may be able to upregulate UCP2, protecting the brain from oxidation and related age-related damage.
The study used 24-month old male rats, giving them daily curcumin at a rate of .2%, comparing them with a control group of 6-month old male rats. After one month of the treatment, the older rats experienced a “remarkable restoration” in brain function, or the “impaired cerebrocascular endothelium-dependent vasorelaxation,” the ability of vessels in the brain to relax and allow blood to flow freely.
In addition, the researchers noted, the curcumin promoted phosphylation of AMPK and eNOS, both related to improved endothelial function and cardiovascular risk factors. The curcumin was also able to reduce production of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) , which is associated with decreased oxidative stress and cell damage.
“In summary, our findings provide the first evidence that chronic pharmacological AMPK/UCP2 pathway activation by curcumin treatment may be an effective therapeutic strategy to reverse age-related cerebrovascular dysfunction,” the researchers wrote. “Curcumin administration may represent a promising lifestyle intervention for preventing age-related cerebrovascular disturbances.”
But this is far from the first study to link turmeric and curcumin to brain benefits. It’s the consumption of turmeric in countries like India that is often credited with their low rates of Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
In one case study, “Effects of turmeric on Alzheimer’s disease with behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia,” three patients with Alzheimer’s saw dramatic improvements after taking 764 milligrams of the spice each day for 12 weeks.
In addition to a dramatic improvement in their moods, agitation, anxiety, and dementia, there were no negative side effects of the treatment.
While science attempts to sort out how turmeric is able to fight disease and degeneration that is often considered untreatable by conventional medicine, we can still experience the benefits now by adding this deep-flavored root to our cooking.