Indians are known to have a markedly reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease relative to Americans. This phenomenon may be explained by their abundant usage of the spice turmeric as a food additive. Curcumin, the active component of turmeric extract, possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant capacity and has been proven to be a neuroprotective agent. This has been further bolstered by recent data published in Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine. For the sake of brevity, spinal cord ischemia was induced in an animal model and neurological recovery was assessed at 48 hours. Animals that received curcumin (at time of reperfusion and therefore time of injury) fared significantly better than those that did not. There was notable suppression of ischemia-induced elevation of inflammatory cytokines and preservation of endogenous anti-oxidant activity in the curcumin group relative to the control group. Similarly, histological markers of neuronal damage were attenuated in the curcumin group.
Who cares, right? Well, you should. Here’s why. We are constantly bombarded with stressors that assume a variety of forms. Source aside, bodily stress stimulates the production of free radicals and inflammation. And while acutely beneficial (in the context of exercise, for example), chronically elevated levels of free radicals and bodily inflammation are associated with disease, dysfunction and the aging process. Take for example the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient. Tissue assays reveal inflammation, neurofibrillary tangles and plaques, the latter of which are induced by free radical damage. In fact most diseases have similar underpinnings: inflammation and free-radical damage or oxidation. We are burdened by, no plagued by these two processes when they exist in our bodies chronically as a result of poor nutrition, lack of exercise and assumption of external stressors (both physical and mental). And disease sets in, age-related disease, the “degenerative disease” of aging.
A logical anti-aging strategy therefore is to temper inflammation and reduce free radical burden, long term. Cumulative damage to our tissues will otherwise result in dysfunction, brain dysfunction as in the case of an Alzheimer’s patient. So protect yourself, because you can! Curcumin has demonstrable neuroprotective effects as evidenced by the results of the investigation of Kurt, et al. And these effects are not isolated to leporine animal models, I can assure you. After all, how could 1.2 billion Indians be wrong?