The nation recently lost a great leader, President Ronald Reagan who spent the last decade of his life battling Alzheimer's disease. With the increasing population of aging baby boomers, the prospect of increased incidence of this disease in the near future looms large.
Alzheimer's disease is characterized by the build up of beta-amyloid protein plaques in the brain, that are believed to be responsible for the decline in memory, as they clog the synapses that connect individual brain cells. Many of the destructive effects of beta- amyloid protein are reported to arise through oxidative damage and inflammation.
Epidemiological studies suggest that long term use of non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduces the risk of Alzheimer's disease. However, these drugs often manifest gastrointestinal and other side effects.
It is heartening to note that several natural compounds have shown promise in preventing the development of this debilitating disease. In this context, recent research provided clues to earlier observations that elderly people living in villages in India appeared to have the lowest incidence of Alzheimer's disease globally. Only 1% of those aged 65 and older experienced the gradual erosion of memory and cognition, characteristic of the disease.
Researchers from the University of California 1 , Los Angeles , reported that diets rich in curcumin inhibited the development of beta-amyloid plaques in experimental models of Alzheimer's disease, as observed in middle-aged and aged rats. The researchers also speculated that compounds such as vanillin, zingerone and rosmarinic acid, with chemical structures similar to curcumin, may manifest similar effects. In this context, another group of researchers 2 reported that N-Acetylcysteine, an antioxidant compound, also had beneficial effects on Alzheimer's disease patients, presumably through the reduction of oxidative stress.
In a more recent in vitro study, researchers found that the natural antioxidants curcumin and rosmarinic acid inhibit the formation of beta-amyloid fibrils from amyloid beta-peptide and destabilize preformed beta-amyloid fibrils. 3
The diverse health benefits of the "curry spice" curcumin are well documented. Valued as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, curcumin is currently being tested as an anti-cancer drug by the NIH.
Extracted from the roots of Curcuma longa (turmeric), natural "curcumin" is essentially a mixture of three related compounds; curcumin, demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin, collectively termed "curcuminoids".
Sabinsa Corporation supplies Curcumin C 3 Complex® (a standardized extract from Curcuma longa roots containing a minimum of 95% curcuminoids) as well as other natural antioxidants.
1. J Neurosci. 2001 Nov 1;21(21):8370-7.
2. Neurology. 2001 Oct 23;57(8):1515-7.
3. J. Neurosci Res. 2004 Mar 15;75(6):742-50