In India, Alzheimer's disease is fairly uncommon, with a less than 1 percent chance of people over the age of sixty-five living in certain rural areas developing the disease. The risk is just 2.4 percent for those who live in the larger cities and rural areas. When comparing these percentiles to the people living over the age of sixty-five in the United States, depending on where we are living, our chances of developing Alzheimer's disease range from a little under five percent to seventeen percent. The question is, what are people living in India doing differently than we are doing here in the United States? The answer seems to curry, a zesty spice and staple of Indian foods, which has been proven to prevent changes in the brain that lead to Alzheimer's disease, and may also reverse some of the damage already present.
Curry, which comes from the turmeric plant, gets its recognizable bright yellow pigment from curcumin, a compound found in turmeric. There have been numerous studies on turmeric and its health benefits for humans proving its ability to help the body get rid of cancer-causing toxins. Turmeric also blocks estrogen receptors and enzymes that promote cancer. This nutrient has also been found to stop the growth of new blood vessels in cancerous tumors, which is important in keeping the cancer from getting larger and spreading throughout the body. One of turmeric's greatest benefits is its ability to reduce, prevent, and stop inflammation, which plays a huge role in Alzheimer's disease.
Plaques and tangles, which are complex growths I the brain that cause Alzheimer's disease, are the hallmarks of this disease. Researchers have always noted the presence of inflammation wherever plaques and tangles form when studying the brain damage caused by Alzheimer's disease. Previously, this inflammation was thought to be simply a consequence of Alzheimer's disease, but scientists now believe the inflammation starts a chain reaction which ultimately contributes to the development of Alzheimer's disease. When cells in the brain are disrupted by inflammation, amyloid, a protein found in the brain normally, begins to act chaotically resulting in the creation of beta-amyloid, which is toxic to cells in the brain. Sticky deposits of beta-amyloid build up and collect around the cells, creating dense clumps of plaques that the brain cannot break down or get rid of, allowing then to stay where they are and slowly accumulate. Tangles are caused when long protein fibers that act like scaffolding for the brain cells begin to twist and tangle due to inflammation, and cause the cell to be damaged and eventually die. However, the tangled proteins remain in the brain cell even after the dead neuron is gone. These abnormalities of protein in the brain cause roadblocks that interfere with electrochemical messengers, diminishing the remaining healthy cells' activity. Research of identical twins has proven that if one twin has Alzheimer's disease, there is a sixty percent chance the other twin will also develop the disease. In a study of 20,000 twins, only 109 pairs of siblings had one twin diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, while the other one was not. It was also concluded that the twin with Alzheimer's disease almost always had chronic gum disease, which although it is not the cause of Alzheimer's disease, the disease that plays a large role in chronic gum disease may also signal the role of an inflammatory process that is stuck in overdrive. The inflammatory process might even occur years before the onset of Alzheimer's as a result of any number of infections people can contract. Current research is looking for ways to protect brain cells from inflammation.
When researchers begin studying a disease, they look for similarities to help them determine how and why the disease occurs. They know Alzheimer's disease has an important connection to inflammation, and also know that turmeric reduces inflammation. When researchers noticed the fact that people in India eat high amounts of curry from turmeric and have very low rates of Alzheimer's disease, they began to conclude that turmeric might be able to prevent or even treat the disease. The research they have developed around these trends has backed up this theory.
Amazing findings are coming from curry research thus far. Not only does turmeric slow down cancer growth, it has also been shown to correct cystic fibrosis in mice, help prevent the onset of alcoholic liver disease, and slow down other serious brain diseases including multiple sclerosis. Researchers from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) studying turmeric have found it to be more effective than the drugs that are currently being investigated for Alzheimer's disease treatment and prevention. They have discovered that the actual structure and shape of turmeric allows it to penetrate the blood-brain barrier so that it can bind to beta amyloid. Similarly, other research shows that turmeric helps remove the beta amyloid that is already built up in the neurons. Turmeric also helps maintain healthy brain cellular metabolism, helps the cells repair themselves, and keeps the cells connected to each other. To sum it up, turmeric helps brain cells stay healthy.
Scientists have recently been studying ibuprofen, one of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) investigated for Alzheimer's disease prevention. Ibuprofen belongs to a family of drugs that are most often used to get rid of headaches, mild arthritis, and other kinds of pain and inflammation. In the studies, patients took 800 mg of day of ibuprofen for two years. Although the research suggested that ibuprofen might reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's, the side effects were too harmful for it to be a valid lifelong prevention and treatment. Some of these side effects include gastrointestinal bleeding, and analgesic nephropathy (a type of kidney damage). As discussed earlier, turmeric appears to block and break up brain plaques that cause the disease, and also helps reverse some of the damage that is already present.
If you enjoy Indian cuisine, then by all means enjoy the food and you'll benefit your brain and appetite both. However, American meals rarely contain curry, which is why supplements that contain extracts are suddenly very popular. There are actually numerous turmeric/curcumin supplements on the market today. Like all nutritional supplements, some turmeric supplements are better than others. Read the labels to make sure the turmeric extract you are buying provides the protection that you need. Also, look for high-potency turmeric extract that is standardized to contain 90% curcuminoids, which is the active ingredient in turmeric that is responsible for all of the positive research findings. Turmeric extract and other herbal supplements for memory can be found at your local or internet health food store.
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