While traveling and studying in India, I visited remote villages where elders have some of the world’s lowest rates of age-related cognitive decline. In fact, less than 1% of the elderly population has Alzheimer’s.1
Compare that to the United States, where the rate is closer to 33%.
It was extraordinary sitting and talking with these bright-eyed, quick-witted elders — some of them well over 100 years old!
So I studied their lifestyle, diet, and environment. And discovered one very different thing: Their diet is loaded with inflammation-reducing turmeric.
As I’m sure you know, inflammation is behind almost every chronic disease, including diseases of the brain like Alzheimer’s.
Here’s how it happens… Every time inflammation turns on; your genes produce molecules known as cytokines. Cytokines are used by your immune system cells to signal each other about threats. They order white blood cells to the scene.
When you’re young, cytokines only increase when there’s an infection or injury. But over a lifetime, your body accumulates so many you’re almost drowning in them.
These cytokines cause cellular damage, which causes more inflammation. It’s a cycle that keeps repeating itself.
A new study finds that inflammation in the brain, or neuroinflammation, drives the progression from the presence of amyloid plaque and tau tangles to the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.2
In another breakthrough study, patients were either given curcumin or a placebo twice daily. At the end of the study, the brain scans of those taking curcumin showed significant decreases in tangle accumulations. This helped patients regain memory and thinking.3
But this powerful root does much more. Curcumin can help:
- Improve working memory in only an hour. A study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology reports found that seniors who took curcumin saw significant improvements in attention and working memory only one hour after taking the nutrient.4
- Increase brain cell plasticity. The journal Mediators of Inflammation reports that curcumin promotes brain cell plasticity. This increase in connectivity between brain cells increases your ability to learn new skills.5
- Boosts DHA in the brain. DHA makes up over 90% of the omega-3 fatty acids in your brain. It’s especially concentrated in the gray matter, the part of the brain associated with memory, decision-making, and emotions. A study published in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta showed that curcumin significantly increased DHA synthesis.6
- Restore your memory. A new study shows that curcumin improves the number of synapses in your brain, restoring your youthful quick memory.7
- Improve concentration and mental energy. In the journal Nutrition Research, researchers found that curcumin supports blood flow as effectively as exercise. Supporting healthy blood flow to the brain boosts your overall brain function, concentration, and mental energy.8
Curcumin remains one of the most powerful anti-inflammatories ever discovered. It targets your body’s inflammation command center – a molecule called nuclear factor-kappa B (NFκB). NFκB is the switch that activates more than 400 pro-inflammatory genes in your body. NFκB can cause you to produce COX-2 and iNOS, two enzymes present in inflammation. So if you inhibit NFκB, you can maintain a healthy inflammatory response.
But inflammation isn’t the only reason curcumin is such a brain-saving superfood. It turns out, the spice can help stop your telomeres from shortening and even make them grow longer.
Clinical studies show it does this by activating the telomere-protecting enzyme telomerase. Telomerase helps preserve and lengthen telomeres – which slows down and even reverses the aging of your brain.9
In fact, with every increase in telomere length, your brain can become biologically younger by another year. Just imagine how it would be to regain the laser-sharp focus and quick memory you had decades ago.
Get the most brain-boosting power out of your curcumin
Sadly, most doctors still don’t recommend curcumin, despite all its amazing brain benefits. But it’s one of the most effective supplements I recommend to my patients. Here’s what I tell them…
- Find a quality supplement. The majority of curcumin supplements you find on drug store shelves won’t work. I did a quick search of the labels of a handful of popular brands. Most had a paltry dosage of around 450 mg. I recommend a daily dose of at least 3,000 mg to ensure you get the most brain benefits from curcumin.
- Make sure it contains piperine. Curcumin has limited bioavailability. That means most of it gets metabolized before it can be absorbed due to the digestive enzymes in the stomach, intestines, and liver.Look for a supplement that also contains piperine. This black pepper compound has been shown to make curcumin more bioavailable. Piperine is a potent inhibitor of drug metabolism and works by protecting curcumin from the digestive enzymes that are working to remove it from your blood. One study found that piperine increases the bioavailability of curcumin by 2,000%.
- Further increase bioavailability by taking it with a healthy fat. The curcuminoids in curcumin are lipophilic, which means they attach to fat. This allows your gut to absorb it more easily. Cook your curcumin with coconut or avocado oil or supplement after a meal that includes healthy fats.
One thing to remember when supplementing with curcumin…be patient. It can take up to eight weeks before the full benefits kick in.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1. Hughes J. “Indian village may hold the key to beating dementia.” BBC News. February 3, 2010.
2. Pascoal T, et al. “Microglial activation and tau propagate jointly across Braak stages.” Nature. 2021;27:1592-1599.
3. Bettcher BM, et al. “C-reactive protein is related to memory and medial temporal brain volume in older adults.” Brain Behav Immun. 2012;26(1):103-108.
4. Cox KH, et al. “Investigation of the effects of solid lipid curcumin on cognition and mood in a healthy older population.” J Psychopharmacol. 2015;29(5):642-651.
5. Choi GY, et al. “Curcumin alters neural plasticity and viability of intact hippocampal circuits and attenuates behavioral despair and COX-2 expression in chronically stressed rats.” Mediators Inflamm. 2017;2017:6280925.
6. Wu A, et al. “Curcumin boosts DHA in the brain: implications for the prevention of anxiety disorders.” Biochim Biophys Acta. 2015;1852(5):951-961.
7. He Y, et al. “Effects of curcumin on synapses in APPswe/PS1dE9 mice.” Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2016;29(2):217-225.
8. Akazawa N, et al. “Curcumin ingestion and exercise training improve vascular endothelial function in postmenopausal women.” Nutr Res. 2012;32(10):795-799.
9. Xiao Z, et al. “Telomerase: A target for therapeutic effects of curcumin and a curcumin derivative in Aβ1-42 insult in vitro.” PLOS One. 2014;9(7):e101251.