We all know a good Friday night Dansak is enough to ease the soul, but scientists have discovered a compound in a good curry actually has the capacity to make you happier.
A compound found in turmeric, the ingredient used to give curry its bright color, could also improve your memory and mood, claims research, published online in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
The compound curcumin is hailed as an anti-inflammatory with antioxidant properties.
It has also been suggested as a possible reason senior citizens in India – where curcumin is somewhat of a staple – have lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease and better cognitive performance.
Dr. Gary Small, director of geriatric psychiatry at UCLA’s Longevity Center and of the geriatric psychiatry division at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, was the study’s first author.
He explained the positive correlation between curcumin and cognitiion:
Exactly how curcumin exerts its effects is not certain, but it may be due to its ability to reduce brain inﬂammation, which has been linked to both Alzheimer’s disease and major depression.
These results suggest that taking this relatively safe form of curcumin could provide meaningful cognitive benefits over the years.
The double-blind, placebo-controlled study enlisted 40 adults, between the ages of 50 and 90-years-old, who had mild memory complaints. Participants were randomly assigned either a placebo or 90 milligrams of curcumin twice daily for 18 months.
All 40 subjects took part in cognitive assessments at the start of the study and at six-month intervals, while the researchers monitored curcumin levels in their blood at the start of the study and after 18 months.
Using positron emission tomography, or PET scanning technology, researchers were able to determine the levels of amyloid and tau in participants’ brains at the start of the study and after 18 months.
The people who took curcumin experienced significant improvements in their memory and attention abilities, while the subjects who received a placebo did not, Small told the University of California.
In memory tests, the people taking curcumin improved by 28 percent over the 18 months.
Those taking curcumin also had mild improvements in mood, and their brain PET scans showed significantly less amyloid and tau signals in the amygdala and hypothalamus – regions of the brain that control several memory and emotional functions – than those who took placebos.
However, four people taking curcumin, and two taking placebos, experienced mild side effects such as abdominal pain and nausea.
The researchers plan to conduct a follow-up study with a larger number of people, which will also include some people with mild depression so the scientists can explore whether curcumin also has antidepressant effects.
The larger sample also would allow them to analyse whether curcumin’s memory-enhancing effects vary according to people’s genetic risk for Alzheimer’s, their age or the extent of their cognitive problems.