Adding just one gram of this popular spice to your breakfast could help improve your memory if you are in the very early stages of diabetes and at risk of cognitive impairment.
Curcumin is a naturally occurring compound found in the spice turmeric. Turmeric has been used for centuries as an Ayurvedic medicine treatment for many ailments like allergies, diabetes and ulcers.
The latest finding on turmeric has special importance for the world’s ageing population. Experts predict rising incidences of conditions that predispose people to diabetes, which in turn is connected to dementia.
Early intervention could help to reduce the burden, whether by halting the disease or reducing its impact, according to study leader Mark Wahlqvist, of Monash University.
“Working memory is widely thought to be one of the most important mental faculties, critical for cognitive abilities such as planning, problem solving and reasoning,” Wahlqvist said. “Assessment of working memory is simple and convenient, but it is also very useful in the appraisal of cognition and in predicting future impairment and dementia.”
Testing Working Memory
The placebo-controlled study, in Taiwan, investigated the working memory of men and women aged 60 or older and recently diagnosed with untreated pre-diabetes. Study participants were given one gram of turmeric with an otherwise nutritionally bland breakfast of white bread. Their working memory was tested before and some hours after the meal.
Working memory is an effective marker and predictor of cognitive processes involved with central executive roles and attention.
“We found that this modest addition to breakfast improved working memory over six hours in older people with pre-diabetes,” Professor Wahlqvist said.
Turmeric is a spice that is widely used in cooking, predominantly in Asia. Its distinguishing yellow colour is due to curcumin, which accounts for 3 to 6 per cent of turmeric and has been shown by experimental studies to reduce the risk of dementia.
In India, turmeric has been used traditionally for thousands of years as a remedy for stomach and liver ailments, as well as topically to heal sores, basically for its supposed antimicrobial property.