A single gram of turmeric in the morning can improve the memory of people in the very early stages of diabetes who are at risk of cognitive impairment.
Turmeric is widely used in cooking, particularly in Asia. Its characteristic yellow color is due to curcumin, which accounts for 3 to 6 percent of turmeric and has been shown by experimental studies to reduce the risk of dementia.
Because the world’s aging population means a rising incidence of conditions that predispose people to diabetes, which in turn is connected to dementia, the findings have particular significance, researchers say.
Early intervention can help reduce the burden, either by halting the disease or reducing its impact, says Mark Wahlqvist, emeritus professor at the Monash Asia Institute at Monash University.
Published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a new study tested the working memory of men and women aged 60 or older in Taiwan who had recently been diagnosed with untreated pre-diabetes.
In the placebo-controlled study, subjects were given one gram of turmeric with an otherwise nutritionally bland breakfast of white bread. Their working memory was tested before and some hours after the meal.
“We found that this modest addition to breakfast improved working memory over six hours in older people with pre-diabetes,” Wahlqvist says.
“Working memory is widely thought to be one of the most important mental faculties, critical for cognitive abilities such as planning, problem solving, and reasoning,” Wahlqvist says.
“Assessment of working memory is simple and convenient, but it is also very useful in the appraisal of cognition and in predicting future impairment and dementia.”