A recent article in the Daily Mail brought to light research suggesting that those of us who indulge regularly in spicy indian food might be better able to ward off neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer's.
Aromatic turmerone is the key compound
Scientists have discovered that aromatic turmerone - a key compound in tumeric which is found in most curries - promotes the proliferation of brain stem calls and their development into neurons.
Scientists examined the effect of aromatic turmerone on stem cells
The lead researcher Dr Adele Rueger from the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Germany explains that 'while several substances have been described to promote stem cell proliferation in the brain, few drugs additionally promote the differentiation of stem cells into neurons, which constitutes a major goal in regenerative medicine.'
Turmeric compound boosted proliferation of stem cells by up to 80%
The scientists examined the effect of aromatic turmerone on endogenous neutral stem cells (NSCs) found within adult brains. NSCs go on to develop into neurons.
At specific concentrations it was found that the turmeric compound increased both the proliferation of rat foetal NSCs and the rate at which they matured. In rats, injections of aromatic turmerone led to the expansion of two important brain regions where growth of new neurones is known to occur - the subventricular zone and the hippocampus.
Dr Laura Phipps, from Alzheimer's Research UK, warned the findings 'are a long way from determining whether this compound could help fight diseases like Alzheimer's.
'It's not clear whether the results of this research would translate to people, or whether the ability to generate new brain cells in this way would benefit people with Alzheimer's disease.'
'The death of brain cells is a key feature of Alzheimer's, and investment in research is crucial to understand how this cell death occurs and how to intervene.
So while more research is still needed to confirm whether these positive results would translate to humans, these latest findings add to a growing body of evidence on turmeric’s brain-boosting effects. For example, studies have found that another bioactive component of turmeric, curcumin, possesses both anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties - perhaps we're one step closer to a new and effective treatment.