According to a recent study, adding just one gram of turmeric to a meal once daily can help to improve working memory in older people who are in the very early stages of diabetes and are also at risk for loss of brain function. This finding has particular significance given that an increase in the world's aging population means a rising incidence of health conditions that predispose people to diabetes, which in turn is connected to dementia incidence. Early intervention may help to reduce the disease burden either by halting progression of diabetes or by reducing its impact.
The current study carried out in Taiwan tested the working memory of men and women aged 60 years or older that had recently been diagnosed with untreated pre-diabetes. Working memory is one of our most important mental faculties. It is critical for planning, problem solving and reasoning, while assessment of working memory is very useful in predicting future mental impairment and dementia.
In the present study, subjects were given one gram of turmeric with an otherwise nutritionally bland breakfast of white bread once daily. Their working memory was tested before and some hours after the meal. The study authors found that even this modest addition to breakfast improved working memory over six hours in older people with pre-diabetes.
Turmeric is the yellow South Asian spice that both flavors and gives its color to most curries. Made from the tuber-like roots of the plant curcuma longa, it has also been used for many centuries in the practice of traditional Indian medicine known as Ayurveda, ‘the science of life’. Turmeric has been used both in food and for medicinal purposes in India for over 5,000 years, which is believed to be the reason why Indians have some of the lowest prevalence rates of Alzheimer's disease in the world today.
Over the past few years, the principal active ingredient in turmeric, known as curcumin, has been shown to act powerfully within our body and brain. In fact, a recent study on patients with Alzheimer's found that less than a gram of turmeric consumed daily for three months leads to remarkable improvements and even reversal of the symptoms of this dreaded disease.
The findings of the present study from Taiwan confirm that turmeric improves brain function—specifically working memory—in older people with early diabetes.