Eating curry once or twice a week could stave off dementia, research suggests.
Tests on fruit flies found that those given curcumin, the key chemical in turmeric, lived 75 per cent longer.
The findings, published in the journal PLoS One, could help explain why rates of dementia are lower among the elderly in India than in their Western peers.
Alzheimer’s is linked to the build-up of protein in the brain called amyloid plaques damaging the wiring.
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 Per 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.”
“We now see small molecules in an animal model can influence the amyloid form. To our knowledge the encapsulation of oligomers is a new and exciting treatment strategy.”
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. …