Curry Spice Chemical Could Curb Alzheimer's

WEDNESDAY, July 18 (HealthDay News) -- A chemical found in curry may help the immune system clear away brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease, a new study suggests.

The findings build on previous research linking curry consumption to reduced Alzheimer's risk, including one study that found that only 1 percent of elderly Indians developed the disease -- a quarter of the rate seen in the United States.

For this new study, published July 16 in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the David Geffen School of Medicine in Los Angeles and the Human BioMolecular Research Institute in San Diego looked at blood samples of Alzheimer's disease patients.

They found that a chemical called bisdemethoxycurcumin boosted immune cells called macrophages to clear amyloid beta, the protein that forms the brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Bisdemethoxycurcumin is the active ingredient in curcuminoids -- a natural substance found in turmeric root. Turmeric is a spice often found in curry powders.

The team also identified the genes involved in the process, called MGAT III and Toll-like receptors, which are also responsible for a number of key immune system functions.

These findings provide more insight into the role of the immune system in Alzheimer's disease and may lead to a new treatment approach, the researchers said. Future treatments may rely on the innate immune system, which is present at birth, rather than on antibodies produced by B cells -- a part of the immune system that develops later.

More information

The Alzheimer's Association has more about Alzheimer's disease.

SOURCE: University of California, Los Angeles, news release, July 16, 2007