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Tuesday June 3, 2014

RICHARD BÉLIVEAU’S COLUMN Healthy Aging – Using Turmeric in the Fight against Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a difficult disease to accept, as it directly impacts the person’s most private self and dignity. Even though there are genetic predispositions to Alzheimer’s disease, many studies have clearly shown that different aspects of one’s lifestyle, including one’s diet, may have a strong influence on the risk of developing the disease. 

Turmeric, an Indian spice, is one of the foods that bring the highest hopes in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Firstly, India is the country where turmeric is the most consumed – it also happens to be the area of the world where the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is the lowest. Secondly, the main active ingredient in turmeric is called curcumin, a molecule with the ability to prevent the development of amyloidal deposits (senile plaques), which are linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. 

A recent study conducted with patients aged 79, 83 & 84 suffering from severe Alzheimer’s suggest that turmeric may be effective in improving symptoms of the disease. All study participants had typical Alzheimer’s behavioural and psychological symptoms, including a loss of cognitive functions combined to high irritability, restlessness, anxiety and apathy, as well as urinary incontinence.  For 12 months, researchers gave 764 mg of turmeric as a supplement (100 mg of curcumin) to participants every day; they also studied the evolution of participants’ behavioural and psychological symptoms. After only three months of treatment, significant improvements were observed for many symptoms: patients were less irritable, calmer, and less anxious. They also had fewer hallucinations and lower levels of depression.  On a longer term (12 months), cognitive functions seemed to have been improved by the turmeric treatment, as many patients started recognizing their family members. 

These observations are to be confirmed by larger-scale studies. However, this remarkable improvement of one’s quality of life thorough the administration of turmeric supplements may become an important step in the development of treatments to alleviate the burden of Alzheimer’s disease on patients and their families.  

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