Friday, October 13, 2006

Good news for Alzheimer’s sufferers

Alzheimer's is a cruel and progressive disease,
which affects memory, emotion and thought processes.
It is estimated that there are approximately 18
million sufferers worldwide - some 5 per cent of the
world's elderly population. Worryingly, experts
claim that the condition is on the increase and
predict that by 2020, Alzheimer's will affect up to
30 million people.

Although exactly what causes the condition is still
not clear, significant data exists supporting the
build-up of plaque in the brain from beta-amyloid

Now scientists from the US have found that curcumin
- the natural pigment that gives the spice turmeric
(a common ingredient in curries) its yellow colour -
could boost the body's ability to clear the build up
of plaques in the brain that are linked to
Alzheimer's disease.

The new research appears to indicate that curcumin,
could help the body's immune system clear away these
beta-amyloid deposits and reduce the risk of
developing the disease.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Milan Fiala from the
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said:
"Curcumin improved ingestion of amyloid beta by
immune cells in 50 percent of patients with
Alzheimer's disease. These initial findings
demonstrate that curcumin may help boost the immune
system of specific Alzheimer's disease patients."

The many health benefits linked to curcumin

Curcumin has increasingly come under the scientific
spotlight in recent years, with studies
investigating its potential benefits for reducing
cholesterol levels, improving cardiovascular health
and cancer-fighting abilities.

The current US research adds to this by reporting on
a small laboratory study using blood from six
Alzheimer's disease patients (aged 65 to 84) and
three healthy controls. The focus was on
macrophages, the 'foot soldiers' of the immune
system that clean up harmful waste products in the
body, including beta-amyloid deposits.

The isolated macrophages were exposed to a curcumin-
derived compound for 24 hours before beta-amyloid
was introduced. It was found that macrophages from
three out of six Alzheimer's disease patients showed
improved uptake or ingestion of the waste product
compared to the patients' macrophages not treated
with curcumin.

The age of the patient and the stage of the
Alzheimer's disease appeared to be key factors in
the effectiveness of the curcumin compound, reported
the researchers, with younger patients and patients
with early-stage Alzheimer's apparently more
receptive to the benefits.

No effects were reported for the macrophages from
the healthy controls when exposed to the curcumin-
derived compound.

"We are hopeful that these positive results in a
test tube may translate to clinical use, but more
studies need to be done before curcumin can be
recommended," said Dr Fiala.

The mechanism behind these apparent effects is not
clear and significant further study is needed to
further examine the potential effects. "Our next
step will be to identify the factors that helped
these immune cells respond," said co-researcher
Laura Zhang from UCLA.

The researchers concluded that: "Immunomodulation of
the innate immune system by curcuminoids might be a
safe approach to immune clearance of amyloidosis in
Alzheimer's Disease brain."

The new study extends previous findings examining
the neuroprotective effects of curcumin. Experts
recommend however that consumers wishing to make use
of curcumin's properties consume it in supplement
form rather than eating more curries, which tend to
be rather high in fat in their Western form.

Source: Health Sciences Institute e-Alert, 13 October 2006
from The Healthier Life

N.B. USANA's Essentials has CURCUMIN EXTRACT (CURCUMA LONGA L., ROOT) 15.0 mg † - see full ingredients here