New research claims eating a curry once a week could help ward off dementia, but is that really the case?
Curry is the nation’s favourite dish, and scientists think this could be for our benefit, thanks to a chemical compound that can be found in one of the curry spices that is often used in these dishes.
Curcumin, which is the key chemical in turmeric – a mustard-coloured spice – is believed to boost brain power and protect memory loss, according to a study carried out at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia.
In the study, 96 participants aged between 40 and 90 took either a placebo tablet or a 1,500mg tablet of curcumin for 12 months. Those who took the placebo tablet saw a decline in their verbal and memory skills compared to those who took the curcumin supplement.
It’s thought that the lower prevalence of dementia in south Asian countries such as India is down to turmeric being used frequently in their cooking.
Study authors believe curcumin blocks the proteins called beta amyloid, which are what clump together and destroy brain cells.
Dr Laura Phipps, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said,
‘While there has been some early stage research into the effects of curcumin on brain health, there is currently no conclusive evidence it could prevent or treat dementia in people.
‘Some studies have produced limited evidence very high doses of curcumin – much higher than might be normally found in foods like curry – could have some impact on memory and thinking skills, but large-scale clinical trials will be required before researchers can fully assess any potential benefits.
‘The best current evidence suggests that not smoking, staying mentally and physically active, eating a balanced diet, keeping high blood pressure and cholesterol in check, and only drinking within recommended limits can all help to maintain a healthy brain as we age.’
Ok, so it’s unlikely that your weekly curry is going to drastically reduce your chances of developing memory loss or dementia. But as the old saying goes, a little bit of what you fancy (ie curry) will do you good. So long as you tag it onto a generally healthy way of living that includes a healthy diet, exercise, not smoking, minimal drinking and plenty of relaxation.