In Summary

A new study looking at the effect of curcumin on the cognitive health of older people has shown remarkable improvements in levels of fatigue and memory.

Swinburne University of Technology’s Professor Andrew Scholey from the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology and PhD student, Katherine Cox, were keen to test this spice extract found in turmeric, based on the success of earlier studies.

“Curcuminn has sparked widespread interest over the last 10 years with epidemiological studies suggesting that cultures with a diet rich in curries are associated with better cognitive function and a lower prevalence of dementia,” said Ms Cox.

Further investigations involving animal studies also suggest that curcumin might be underlying this improved cognitive effect.

“One issue found in preclinical animal studies, was that pure curcumin given orally is not well absorbed, making it less powerful,” said Ms Cox.

The compound used in this study is lipid soluble (Longvida®), which is absorbed quicker into the blood stream and 65 times more bioavailable than pure curcumin.

The randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial examined the acute (one and three hours after a single dose), chronic (four weeks) and acute-on-chronic (one and three hours after single dose following chronic treatment) effects of curcumin on cognitive function and mood in 60 healthy adults aged 60-85.

After one hour of taking curcumin, participants demonstrated significant improvements on two measures of attention (concentration). After four weeks of treatment, there was the same beneficial effect of curcumin though on one attention measure only.

“What really surprised us was that the chronic effect of curcumin was associated with significantly lower levels of fatigue, compared with the placebo group,” said Ms Cox.

“Fatigue in the elderly is quite important for health and psychological reasons and interventions such as curcumin that can decrease levels of fatigue may have the potential to reduce vulnerability to depression and anxiety disorders,” said Ms Cox.

This research highlights the need for further investigation of the potential psychological benefits of curcumin in older populations.

The study was supported by funding from Verdure Sciences™ Pty. The findings have been published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.