To protect your brain against Alzheimer's memory loss, consider taking a daily turmeric supplement. According to research, the active ingredient in the Indian spice turmeric may delay or even prevent memory problems if you're unlucky enough to get Alzheimer's disease. And a turmeric capsule is the easiest and most effective way to add this supplement to your diet.
QUICK TIPS: Make sure the turmeric supplement you choose contains BioPerine. This will increase absorption of turmeric by your body (more about this below). Also, be sure to review the list of turmeric side effects .
What is turmeric? An orange-yellow spice, turmeric gives the popular Indian dish curry its distinct color and flavor. "Curcumin" is the active ingredient responsible for turmeric's health benefits.
Turmeric has been shown to fight inflammation and infection. As a powerful antioxidant, some doctors recommend turmeric as anti-cancer therapy. But especially exciting is evidence that turmeric may protect brain cells from the effects of Alzheimer's dementia, one of the most common causes of memory loss.
Note: Take a look at coconut oil as well if you are looking for alternative treatments for Alzheimer's or for ways to lower your risk.
There is no cure for Alzheimer's, but taking a turmeric supplement one to three times a day with food may help brain cells survive and continue to function in the presence of the disease. One problem with Alzheimer's disease is that by the time symptoms appear, the disease has already killed many brain cells. So until researchers find a cure, a turmeric supplement can increase the odds your memory stays sharp as you get older.
In the past, you'd need to cook with large amounts of turmeric to receive the protective benefit from your food. These days you can simply take a turmeric supplement such as Viva Labs' Curcumin C3 Turmeric or Nutrigold's Turmeric Curcumin Gold. Both come in capsule form, as shown in the image above.
Why these products in particular? A critical ingredient when selecting a turmeric supplement is BioPerine, a compound made from black pepper. BioPerine (chemical name "piperine") enhances absorption of curcumin by the bloodstream by over 2,000%, according to a study in the journal Planta Medica. I've had good luck with other Nutrigold products, so Turmeric Curcumin Gold is the turmeric supplement I've chosen to take personally.
How effective is turmeric at protecting the brain? Actor Michael Caine attributes his perfect memory to the turmeric supplement he's taken for many years:
I am married to an Indian lady and have learned about Indian culture. I looked into what they got and didn't get. And one of the things they don't get is Alzheimer's.
They eat a great deal of turmeric in their food. I have been taking turmeric tablets for 30 years and I have a memory like a computer. I remember everything.
- Michael Caine, April 2013 interview
In fact, a dementia study published in Archives of Neurology found India has one of the lowest incidences of Alzheimer's disease in the world. Alzheimer's is 4 times more common in the U.S. by comparison. Researchers suspect the widespread use of turmeric in traditional Indian Ayurvedic cuisine provides this brain-protective benefit.
In Alzheimer's disease, tangled structures known "tau proteins" invade brain cells. At the same time, beta-amyloid plaque forms around the cells. These unwanted proteins create toxic byproducts that cause the brain cells to become sick and die. According to research, taking a turmeric supplement may protect brain cells against these toxins and preserve memory ability.
As Alzheimer's worsens, millions of brain cells die from exposure to the protein toxins over time. As shown on an MRI scan, the brain of an Alzheimer's patient literally shrinks in size due to the loss of so many neurons.
During the normal course of the disease, brain cells continue to die and the person's memory gets worse and worse. When too many neurons have died, Alzheimer's becomes fatal.
Although there is no medical treatment that can prevent Alzheimer's or remove the harmful proteins, it may be possible to keep brain cells alive. By eating a large amount of turmeric or taking a turmeric supplement, the toxic effects of Alzheimer's proteins may be avoided, helping brain cells survive and preserving memory. (For a similar reason, consider including coconut oil in your diet.)
So how does a turmeric supplement actually protect the brain? The curcumin can lessen the brain cell damage caused by Alzheimer's in two ways:
Curcumin blocks the precursor proteins (oligimers) of the tau tangles and beta-amyloid plaques.
Studies show that when these oligimers are suppressed, brain cells continue functioning.
Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant and free-radical scavenger. It can decrease the harmful effects of oxidation and free radicals on brain cells.
There are no turmeric prescription drugs. However, turmeric capsules like Nutrigold's Turmeric Curcumin Gold and Viva Labs' Curcumin C3 Turmeric that include BioPerine are readily available over-the-counter from online retailers including Amazon.com.
Alzheimer's disease runs in my family. To give myself a better chance of avoiding memory loss due to Alzheimer's, I take a turmeric supplement every day along with green tea, my other vitamins, and coconut oil.
If you're worried about Alzheimer's disease, you can do the same!
IMPORTANT: Consult your personal doctor before making changes to your diet.
Last Updated: 06/11/2020
Tumeric Supplement References:
University of California - Los Angeles. "Scientists ID Compounds that Target Amyloid Fibrils in Alzheimer's, Other Brain Diseases." ScienceDaily, 26 Jul. 2013. Web. 3 Jan. 2014.
Nagpal, Sood. "Role of Curcumin in Systemic and Oral Health: An Overview." Journal of Natural Science, Biology, and Medicine. 2013 Jan-Jun; 4(1): 3-7. doi: 10.4103/0976-9668.107253
Yang, Lim, et al. "Curcumin Inhibits Formation of Amyloid Oligomers and Fibrils, Binds Plaques, and Reduces Amyloid in Vivo." February 18, 2005. The Journal of Biological Chemistry, 280, 5892-5901. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M404751200
These data suggest that low dose curcumin effectively disaggregates amyloid as well as prevents fibril and oligomer formation, supporting the rationale for curcumin use in clinical trials preventing or treating Alzheimer's disease.
Lim, Chu, Yang, Beech, Frautschy, Cole. "The Curry Spice Curcumin Reduces Oxidative Damage and Amyloid Pathology in an Alzheimer Transgenic Mouse." Journal of Neuroscience. 2001 Nov 1;21(21):8370-7.
Shoba, Joy, Joseph, Srinivas, et al. "Influence of Piperine on the Pharmacokinetics of Curcumin in Animals and Human Volunteers." Planta Medica, 1998 May;64(4):353-6.
Concomitant administration [with curcumin] of piperine 20 mg produced much higher concentrations... the increase in bioavailability was 2000%... piperine enhances the serum concentration, extent of absorption, and bioavailability of curcumin in both rats and humans with no adverse effects.
Pandav, Belle, DeKosky. "Apolipoprotein E polymorphism and Alzheimer's disease: The Indo-US cross-national dementia study." Archives of Neurology. 2000;57:824-30.