A couple of years ago, I purchased a large bottle of turmeric capsules. I’d heard that Alzheimer’s rates in some parts of India are a good deal lower than in North America. Unfortunately, the website I visited implied that curcumin, the active ingredient, could only be realized by regular eating subcontinent food. And I do like Indian food. But it was immediately clear that the rest of my family, or even myself, would be unwilling to make a radical change in diet. I also recall, when Paula and I visited Innsbruck, Austria, in 1991, one of the most striking places on earth, I threw up violently, presumably on account of Indian food.
Belatedly, I grasped that turmeric capsules could be helpful. In January, an article in Forbes, by Alice G. Walton, described how turmeric could help people with cognitive problems. “Curcumin’s anti-inflammation, anti-amyloid, and possible anti-tau properties may offer neurons protective benefits,” Walton wrote. (Tau and amyloid plaque are the two significant features of Alzheimer’s. Tau presents as “tangles,” amyloid as “plaques.”). And, significantly, recent studies indicate a link between curcumin consumption and lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease.
While the research has been described as promising, “initial placebo-controlled trials have yielded negative results, perhaps because they used forms of curcumin with limited “bioavailability”—the proportion of a drug or herbal supplement that is efficacious. Apparently, the only downside of the trial was abdominal pain, presumably caused by the spicy diet.
In her conclusion, Walton wrote, “The new study is exciting, since it’s a true clinical study, and earlier evidence had been mixed. Researchers have long observed that some groups of people in India have lower incidents of Alzheimer’s disease, which is thought to be in part to the higher intake of turmeric.” Walton also noted that studies have hinted at the favorable aspects of turmeric, in boosting mood and calming anxiety. (Anxiety is a frequent companion of Alzheimer’s.)
In a less august tribune, the U.K. website “Just Vitamins” makes the blunt claim that Indian food “can break down amyloid plaques.” If this proves to be true, this would be encouraging news, but information highways are littered with the carcasses of projects that died from lack of money, or lack of relevance, or both. In the meantime, I’ll be popping my turmeric capsules, and making sure I don’t gag on them on. My ruler indicates the capsules are just a shade over 2 centimeters.
The claim, of course, is that curcumin can break down amyloid plaque, one of the two facets of Alzheimer’s. (The other is “tau,” which presents as tangles.) And, if you haven’t noticed, I don’t have much of a background in science. So I still have things to learn about my condition. Make that a lot to learn. In a future post, I will take on cellular inflammation, another topic that may leave me treading water for a while, until I get my bearings.