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Turmeric shown to boost memory and attention span in the elderly in a recent study

Thursday, 27 April 2017  |  David Watkins

Turmeric is widely used in numerous cooked dishes for its unique flavour and colour. The compound responsible for that colour is curcumin and a recent Australian study has demonstrated improvements in the memory and attention span of older people where cognitive performance can naturally decrease as part of the ageing process.

Regional dishes may hold the key
Previous studies have shown the probability of a correlation between older populations living in places like India where the use of turmeric is widespread and significantly lower levels of dementia and improved cognitive functions. Many regional dishes in India such as curry all traditionally include turmeric and the curcumin it contains has been established as the most likely cause of those benefits.

Two decades of professional study
Professor Andrew Scholey, lead researcher of the Australian study and director of Swinburne's Center for Human Psychopharmacology, has been studying the beneficial impact of common herbs and spices on the human brain for two decades. His research led him to conclude that the main things older people fear about getting old are the loss of energy and the loss of mental functions. He has stated that curcumin has multiple physiological effects and as well as its ability to reduce inflammation and improve blood flow, it can also influence multiple processes that nudge brain function in a positive direction.

60 volunteers take the test
Professor Scholey and his colleagues enlisted 60 volunteers between 60 and 85 years old and divided them into two equal groups. One group was given capsules containing curcumin with an absorption improvement agent and the other group were given a placebo capsule. A few hours after they had taken the supplement/placebo, all participants were asked to perform various computer based mental exercises, such as remembering pictures and words, basic subtraction and reaction time tasks. They continued to perform these tasks after taking the supplement/placebo daily for a period of four weeks.

Memory improvements just hours after taking turmeric
Compared to the placebo group, participants who had taken the curcumin capsules demonstrated significantly better performances on computer tasks used to judge working memory and vigilance just a few hours after taking the supplement. Many in the curcumin group also said they experienced less fatigue and felt more calm and content during the four week study.

Award winning research
In the award winning published work on their research it was noted by the researchers that, to the best of their knowledge, theirs was the first study to specifically examine the effects of curcumin on cognitive behaviour and mood in a healthy older population. This pioneering work has led to the allocation of further funding to continue in-depth research into the known cognitive benefits of curcumin.

Acknowledgement to Professor Andrew Scholey, director of Swinburne's Center for Human Psychopharmacology in Australia.

About The Author

David Watkins is a long-serving senior member of the management of Tonvara Natural Supplements, a family owned company based in the heart of the Sussex countryside in the UK.