Hot new tip… eating a curry once (or twice) a week could stave off dementia, say scientists
Few of us need too much encouragement when it comes to heading off to the curry house.
But scientists have come up with one of the best excuses ever: a spicy ingredient in curry could be an effective treatment for Alzheimer's disease.
Tests on fruit flies with a nervous disorder similar to the neurodegenerative illness found those given curcumin – the key chemical in turmeric used in everything from mild Kormas to the hottest Vindaloos – lived 75 per cent longer.
Brain food: Curcumin, an active ingredient found in turmeric, has been linked with a range of potential health benefits. Now scientists say it can combat dementia
Alzheimer's is linked to the build up of knots of protein in the brain called amyloid plaques, damaging the wiring in brain cells.
The findings, published in the journal PLoS One, could help explain why rates of dementia are much lower among the elderly in India than in their Western peers.
Previous research has found Alzheimer's affects just one per cent of people over the age of 65 living in some Indian villages.
Drugs with similar properties to curcumin could potentially be used as preventative treatments.
Spicy discovery: Per Hammarstrom, professor at Linkoping University
In the study Professor Per Hammarstrom and colleagues also found five groups of fruit flies genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer's-type symptoms manipulations maintained their mobility longer when given curcumin.
The scientists saw no decrease of amyloid in the brain or eyes of the insects.
Curcumin did not dissolve the plaque, but accelerated the formation of nerve fibres by reducing the amount of their precursor forms, known as oligomers, from which they were formed.
Prof Hammarstrom, of Linkoping University in Sweden, said: 'The results confirm our belief that it is the oligomers that are most harmful to the nerve cells.'
Several theories have been established about how oligomers can instigate the disease process.
According to one hypothesis they become trapped at nerve junctions inhibiting impulse signals. Others claim they destroy brain cells by puncturing membrane.
Curcumin is extracted from the root of turmeric and has been used as medicine for thousands of years. It aids digestion, helps fight infection and guards against heart attacks.
More recently it has been tested against pain, thrombosis and cancer.