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How Turmeric Can Save the Aging Brain From Dementia and Premature Death

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Summary

By Sayer Ji • Originally posted on Greenmedinfo.com A promising new study published in Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry titled, “Dietary Curcumin Ameliorates Aging-Related Cerebrovascular Dysfunction through the AMPK/Uncoupling Protein 2 Pathway,”[i] reveals the primary polyphenol in turmeric known as curcumin (which gives it its golden hue) may provide what the study authors describe as an

By Sayer Ji • Originally posted on Greenmedinfo.com

A promising new study published in Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry titled, “Dietary Curcumin Ameliorates Aging-Related Cerebrovascular Dysfunction through the AMPK/Uncoupling Protein 2 Pathway,”[i] reveals the primary polyphenol in turmeric known as curcumin (which gives it its golden hue) may provide what the study authors describe as an “effective therapeutic strategy to reverse age-related cerebrovascular dysfunction.”

Age-related cerebrovascular dysfunction is occurring on an epidemic scale in Western countries and include, “stroke, cerebral amyloid angiopathy, cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases.” Presently, very few if any conventional medical interventions are capable of providing effective solutions, and none have been found to reverse underlying pathologies in conditions whose trajectories are generally characterized as ‘incurable.’ All the more reason why the new study holds so much promise in providing an evidence-based natural solution that is safe, effective, affordable and easily accessible as a familiar food ingredient.

The study was conducted using a rat model. 24-month old male rodents were given dietary curcumin (.2%), with young control rodents 6-months of age. After one month of curcumin treatment, the researchers observed a ‘remarkable restoration’ of the impaired cerebrovascular endothelium-dependent vasorelaxation (i.e. the ability of the blood vessels to naturally relax) in the aging rats. They observed three distinct ‘molecular’ ameliorative effects:

  • Curcumin promoted eNOS and AMPK phosphylation: Increasing nitric oxide (NO) bioavailability enables the inner lining of the blood vessels (endothelium) to fully dilate, reducing cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension and associated damage to the arteries. Increased 5′-AMP activated protein kinase (AMPK) activity is also associated with improved age-related endothelial function.
  • Curcumin upregulated mitochondrial uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2): UCP2 plays an important role in mitochondrial homeostasis and its optimal functionaing has been associated with increased lifespan.
  • Curcumin reduced Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) production: ROS reduction is associated with decreased oxidative stress and related cellular damage.

The authors summarized their findings as follows:

“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. Curcumin administration may represent a promising lifestyle intervention for preventing age-related cerebrovascular disturbances.”

A Massive Body of Research On Curcumin’s Brain Protective Properties

GreenMedInfo.com houses a database of 1597 abstracts from the National Library of Medicine on the health value of turmeric and/or curcumin in over 600 health conditions. View them all here: turmeric health benefits.  Of the 177 distinct beneficial physiological actions documented within this literature, 114 of them concern the spice’s neuroprotective properties. View them here: neuroprotective properties of turmeric.

While this latest study, and most of the research on our turmeric database is preclinical, there are reports of turmeric causing significant improvements in cerebrovascular dysfunction diseases such as Alzheimer’s. In a previous article titled, “Turmeric Produces ‘Remarkable’ Recovery in Alzheimer’s Patients,” we reported on the ability of turmeric to produce dramatic improvement in patients suffering from behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia.

As we discussed in the article, other documented Anti-Alzheimer’s disease mechanisms of turmeric include:

  • Anti-inflammatory: Curcumin has been found to play a protective role against β-amyloid protein associated inflammation.[11]
  • Anti-oxidative: Curcumin may reduce damage via antioxidant properties.[12]
  • Anti-cytotoxic: Curcumin appears to protect against the cell-damaging effects of β-amyloid proteins.[13] [14]
  • Anti-amyloidogenic: Turmeric contains a variety of compounds (curcumin, tetrahydrocurcumin, demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin) which may strike to the root pathological cause of Alzheimer’s disease by preventing β-amyloid protein formation.[15] [16] [17] [18]
  • Neurorestorative: Curcuminoids appear to rescue long-term potentiation (an indication of functional memory) impaired by amyloid peptide, and may reverse physiological damage by restoring distorted neurites and disrupting existing plaques. [19] [20]
  • Metal-chelating properties: Curcumin has a higher binding affinity for iron and copper rather than zinc, which may contribute to its protective effect in Alzheimer’s disease, as iron-mediated damage may play a pathological role.[21] [22]

Turmeric, of course, is not the only natural substance that has been proven to have value in neurodegenerative conditions.  For those looking for additional research on food and spice-based natural alternatives that are evidence based, here are additional substances that may be of value:

  • Cocoa: A 2009 study found that cocoa procyanidins may protect against lipid peroxidation associated with neuronal cell death in a manner relevant to Alzheimer’s disease.[24]
  • Sage: A 2003 study found that sage extract has therapeutic value in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.[25]
  • Folic acid: While most of the positive research on this B vitamin has been performed on the semi-synthetic version, which may have unintended, adverse health effects,  the ideal source for this B vitamin is foliage, i.e. green leafy vegetables, as only foods provide folate. Also, the entire B group of vitamins, especially including the homocysteine-modulating B6 and B12,[26] may have the most value in Alzheimer’s disease prevention and treatment.
  • Resveratrol: this compound is mainly found in the Western diet in grapes, wine, peanuts and chocolate. There are 16 articles on our website indicating it has anti-Alzheimer’s properties.[27]
  • Gingko biloba: is one of the few herbs proven to be at least as effective as the pharmaceutical drug Aricept in treating and improving symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.[28] [29]
  • Melissa offinalis: this herb, also known as Lemon Balm, has been found to have therapeutic effect in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.[30]
  • Saffron: this herb compares favorably to the drug donepezil in the treatment of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease.[31]

[i] Yunfei Pu, Hexuan Zhang, Peijian Wang, Yu Zhao, Qiang Li, Xing Wei, Yuanting Cui, Jing Sun, Qianhui Shang, Daoyan Liu, Zhiming Zhu. Dietary curcumin ameliorates aging-related cerebrovascular dysfunction through the AMPK/uncoupling protein 2 pathway. Cell Physiol Biochem. 2013 ;32(5):1167-77. Epub 2013 Nov 11. PMID: 24335167


From Ocean Robbins, Food Revolution Network CEO: 

Many of our members have been asking how much curcumin to take, how to take it in a bioavailable form, and where to get curcumin from a source they can trust. The challenge with taking full advantage of the curcumin in turmeric is low bioavailability. Personally, I love mixing fresh and dried turmeric into all sorts of foods – and I always try to include black pepper with it, because studies show that piperine (found in black pepper) helps to increase absorbability. But now PuraTHRIVE has developed a curcumin supplement that utilizes a cutting-edge micelle liposomal delivery mechanism that’s been found to increase bioavailability by up to 185 times. Their formula also contains ginger oil, vegan DHA fatty acids from algae, and beneficial phospholipids. The product is 100% vegan, organic, soy-free, and non-GMO. And if you get it from this link, they’ll contribute a portion of the proceeds to the work of the Food Revolution Network. Click here if you’d like to find out more.

A Word of Caution:

Turmeric is a natural blood thinner. If you’re currently taking blood thinning medications, are pregnant, have gallstones, or are susceptible to kidney stones you may want to moderate your turmeric consumption or take it under the supervision of a healthcare provider.

Lead in Turmeric

Investigators believe that in some countries, turmeric may be intentionally contaminated with lead to enhance its weight, color, or both. Lead-contaminated turmeric has repeatedly been found in India and Bangladesh, and it may be a concern in the United States, as well.

The FDA has not set maximum permissible levels of lead in spices. As a result, the agency does not regulate lead levels in turmeric. If you want to protect yourself and your family from possible lead contamination, the best option is to buy fresh turmeric root or to buy organic turmeric and curcumin products. You can also contact manufacturers to ask if they test for lead and other metals.

We asked PuraTHRIVE about their products and lead, and they told us they run ICPMS (the highest standard for heavy metal testing) on every batch of Curcumin Gold. They test internally and also hire a third party for independent verification. The test results show there is no lead in their products. They report that they are also fully compliant with California’s Prop 65. See more about Curcumin Gold here.

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Note: Image from Wikimedia Commons with modifications.