Alzheimer's Disease and Turmeric (Curcumin)
For centuries, turmeric has been known in Asian countries, such as India and China as an effective cure for many diseases. It has been used for many conditions including fever, cough, dyspepsia, menstrual problems, and a lot more.
Modern medicine has backed up the positive effects of curcumin, the active ingredient of turmeric, on the health through in vitro or animal tests. It has been shown to help improve conditions like cancer, heart disease, psoriasis, and even brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.
To get an overview of the various health benefits you can get from turmeric or curcumin, you may read the article Health Benefits of Turmeric.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is among the most common types of dementia. This condition causes problems in memory, thinking, and behavior. With this disease, the symptoms usually develop gradually, and get worse over time. Ultimately, AD gets severe enough to interfere with simply daily tasks.
Alzheimer's disease is a physical disease, which affects the brain. It was first discovered by the German neurologist Alois Alzheimer. This disease is primarily caused by protein (amyloid-B) plaques and tangles developing in the brain, which eventually leads to the death of brain cells. Those with Alzheimer's disease also have a shortage of some important chemicals in the brain that are connected to the transmission of messages within the brain.
The protein fragments that the body produces normally are generally called amyloid. The protein fragment Amyloid-B is snipped from another protein called Amyloid Precursor Protein or APP. These protein fragments are broken down and eliminated in a healthy brain, but in a brain with Alzheimer’s disease, these fragments accumulate and form hard insoluble plaques between brain cells.
There is no current cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but treatment can manage some of the symptoms.
Alzheimer's disease and curcumin
Population studies show that elderly villagers in India have the lowest rate of Alzheimer’s disease in the world. This may be because their traditional diet has a lot of turmeric with almost every meal. Due to this fact, the possibility that curcumin could prevent or treat Alzheimer’s was considered. Curcumin has two primary effects on the body – as an antioxidant and as an anti-inflammatory agent. These properties might be helpful in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease as it begins as an inflammatory process in the brain.
Studies At A Glance
Curcumin reduces amyloid accumulation in the brain, as well as synaptic marker loss.
In animal studies, curcumin binds to small amyloid-B fragments preventing them from clumping together.
Curcumin has shown to protect against brain damage and enhance brain self-repair mechanism.
Researchers at UCLA found out that curcumin not only lessens oxidative damage and inflammation, but also reduces the accumulation of amyloid and synaptic marker loss. The test was done in several models. Additionally, curcumin improved amyloid phagocytosis and the elimination of amyloids from the brain.
The process wherein living cells called phagocytes ingest or engulf other cells or particles is called phagocytosis. Bacteria, dead cell tissues, various dust particles, and other foreign bodies commonly get phagocytosed in the body.
The phagocyte and the particle must adhere to each other before phagocytosis is accomplished. Curcumin aids the phagocytosis of amyloid-B particles, which helps improve their elimination from the brain.
Researchers found through animal studies that curcumin has the ability to cross the blood brain barrier and bind to small amyloid-B fibers. Once these proteins bind to curcumin, they cannot clump together anymore to form plaques.
In vitro studies also show that curcumin helped prevent synaptic marker and cognitive decline triggered by amyloid peptide infusion.
Amyloid β-peptide (Aβ) contributes to the toxicity and cell death observed in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Based on studies, curcumin has powerful neuroprotective abilities. It protects the brain against β-amyloid-induced brain damage, and at the same time, enhances neurogenesis, which is a brain self-repair mechanism through a lot of different molecular pathways (1), (2), (3), (4).
National Institute of Health gave Dr. Sally A. Frautschy from the UCLA group a drug development grant to come up with a curcumin formulation that can be taken orally and cross the blood-brain barrier. This project led to the development of a solid lipid particle formulation of curcumin patented by UC Regents and Veteran's Affairs and licensed as Longvida.
Longvida is the form of curcumin especially made for brain diseases. Since curcumin has low bioavailability, most of it gets metabolized in the liver and the gut, and is eliminated before reaching the bloodstream and circulating to the parts of the body where it is needed. In Longvida, they used the Solid Lipid Curcumin Particle Technology, which encapsulates curcumin and protects it against acids in the stomach, so that it gets broken down in the point of absorption, which is the GI Tract. Thus, helping more curcumin reach the bloodstream to get where it is needed.
Taking Curcumin For Alzheimer's Disease
Curcumin is generally considered safe in doses up to 4 grams per day. There was even a study in Thailand that showed no adverse side effects even at 8 grams per day.
Recommended dose for Alzheimer's disease is between 2 and 4 grams per day. It is always best to start slowly and increase the dose later on. The dose should stay the same at least for several days before it is increased.
To learn more about how to take curcumin, read our article on dosages, possible side effects and interactions with any other medications and herbs you might be taking.
There are many curcumin supplements on the market and choosing from them can be a daunting task. We've already talked about how Longvida is the best curcumin formulation for brain disease. In our article Choosing the best curcumin for your needs we've discussed Longvida and other curcumin formulation. You can read more specific about Longvida and find out under which commercial names this formulation is available.
- Activation of SIRT1 by curcumin blocks the neurotoxicity of amyloid-β25-35 in rat cortical neurons. Sun Q, Jia N, Wang W, Jin H, Xu J, Hu H. 2014 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24755072
- Curcumin-loaded nanoparticles potently induce adult neurogenesis and reverse cognitive deficits in Alzheimer's disease model via canonical Wnt/β-catenin pathway. Tiwari SK1, Agarwal S, Seth B, Yadav A, Nair S, Bhatnagar P, Karmakar M, Kumari M, Chauhan LK, Patel DK, Srivastava V, Singh D, Gupta SK, Tripathi A, Chaturvedi RK, Gupta KC.2014. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24467380
- Curcumin attenuates amyloid-β-induced tau hyperphosphorylation in human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells involving PTEN/Akt/GSK-3β signaling pathway. Huang HC1, Tang D, Xu K, Jiang ZF. 2014. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24188406
- Amelioration of β-amyloid-induced cognitive dysfunction and hippocampal axon degeneration by curcumin is associated with suppression of CRMP-2 hyperphosphorylation. Wang Y, Yin H, Li J, Zhang Y, Han B, Zeng Z, Qiao N, Cui X, Lou J, Li J. 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24157857
- Scientists pinpoint how vitamin D may help clear amyloid plaques found in Alzheimer's. UCLA Newsroom. 2012. http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/ucla-study-finds-vitamin-d-may-94903
- Discovery of 5-(4-Hydroxyphenyl)-3-oxo-pentanoic Acid [2-(5-Methoxy-1H-indol-3-yl)-ethyl]-amide as a Neuroprotectant for Alzheimer's Disease by Hybridization of Curcumin and Melatonin. Chojnacki JE, Liu K, Yan X, Toldo S, Selden T, Estrada M, Rodríguez-Franco MI, Halquist MS, Ye D, Zhang S. 2014. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24825313
- Beta-amyloid oligomers induce phosphorylation of tau and inactivation of insulin receptor substrate via c-Jun N-terminal kinase signaling: suppression by omega-3 fatty acids and curcumin. Ma QL, Yang F, Rosario ER, Ubeda OJ, Beech W, Gant DJ, Chen PP, Hudspeth B, Chen C, Zhao Y, Vinters HV, Frautschy SA, Cole GM.2009. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19605645
- Docosahexaenoic acid protects from amyloid and dendritic pathology in an Alzheimer's disease mouse model. Cole GM1, Frautschy SA. 2006. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17180870
- Prevention of Alzheimer's disease: Omega-3 fatty acid and phenolic anti-oxidant interventions. Cole GM, Lim GP, Yang F, Teter B, Begum A, Ma Q, Harris-White ME, Frautschy SA. 2005. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16266772