Curry may counter cognitive decline

A chemical found in turmeric, an ingredient in curry, may prevent cognitive impairment, a study of Singaporeans suggests.

The chemical, called curcumin, has anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties, past research in animals had suggested (SN: 12/8/01, p. 362: Available to subscribers at A spice takes on Alzheimer’s disease). To explore its potential effects in people, medical researchers in Singapore analyzed a database of some 1,000 elderly, mentally sound adults living in that ethnically diverse city-state in Southeast Asia.

The database, originally collected for diet and health studies, provided a measure of cognitive function for each volunteer and information on, among other things, ethnicity and curry consumption.

Compared with people who reported rare or no curry consumption, those who said they ate curry often or occasionally had slightly higher scores on the cognitive-function tests. Researchers led by Tze-Pin Ng of the National University of Singapore report the finding in the Nov. 1 American Journal of Epidemiology.

Once the researchers took education and other factors into account, the results were strongest in people of Indian ethnicity. Indian curry recipes rely heavily on turmeric.

More Stories from Science News on Health & Medicine