Call it yellow ginger, haldi, turmeric or E100, the yellow root of Curcuma longa, a staple ingredient in curry, is turning out to be gratifyingly healthy. Now Tze-Pin Ng and colleagues at the National University of Singapore have discovered that curry eating seems to boost brain power in elderly people.
Curcumin, a constituent of turmeric, is an antioxidant, and reports have suggested that it inhibits the build-up of amyloid plaques in people with Alzheimer's. Ng's team looked at the curry-eating habits of 1010 Asian people unaffected by Alzheimer's and aged between 60 and 93, and compared their performance in a standard test of cognitive function, the Mini Mental State Examination. Those people who consumed curry "occasionally" (once or more in 6 months but less than once a month) and "often" (more than once a month) had better MMSE results than those who only ate curry "never or rarely" (American Journal of Epidemiology, DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwj267).
"What is remarkable is that apparently one needs only to consume curry once in a while for the better cognitive performance to be evidenced," says Ng, who says he wants to confirm the results, possibly in a controlled clinical trial comparing curcumin and a placebo.