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Curcumin: Aging Brains and Cancer


Newly published data about curcumin continues to astonish scientists, physicians, and the lay public.

We’ve long known about curcumin’s many benefits, yet the news about this low-cost nutrient keeps growing stronger.

Curcumin, the active component of the spice turmeric, has a long history in Chinese and Indian medicine. Modern science has discovered that this ancient compound can drastically impact neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.

In a remarkable finding, researchers have discovered that when mice were supplemented with curcumin, they experienced a significant increase in formation of new neurons, particularly in the memory-critical hippocampal area of the brain.

These studies show not only the cancer prevention potential of curcumin, but also its ability to slow tumor growth when it occurs, and sensitize cancer cells to existing chemotherapy drugs.

Curcumin powerfully fights against the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies show that it directly binds to toxic beta amyloid proteins and prevents the formation of dangerous, inflammation-causing plaques. In addition, curcumin has been shown to have at least seven other mechanisms that minimize the formation of beta amyloid:

  • It binds to metal ions that induce oxidative stress in brain cells and promote beta amyloid development.
  • It directly protects against oxidative damage, exceeding that of vitamin E, removing a major stimulus for beta amyloid formation.
  • It lowers cholesterol, which has been shown to limit beta amyloid plaque formation.
  • It reduces levels of pro-inflammatory signaling molecules (cytokines) that promote beta amyloid.
  • It limits oxidation of crucial fats and proteins that trigger the main enzyme involved in beta amyloid formation.
  • It promotes cleanup of existing beta amyloid deposits by brain macrophage cells.
  • It induces stress-responsive heat-shock proteins that protect brain cells from beta amyloid toxicity.

Curcumin Battles Neurodegeneration and Cancer

  • Chemical stresses and disrupted biological signaling pathways are common to most symptoms of aging. These disruptions are especially prominent in the development of age-related brain degeneration, stroke, and other threats to our cognitive health, and also in the development of cancer.
  • Curcumin, the primary constituent of turmeric, is an age-old spice used to combat many chronic disorders, which today are recognized as related to these disrupted pathways.
  • Studies now reveal at least eight mechanisms by which curcumin can prevent or slow neurodegenerative diseases, stroke risk, and even damage induced by head trauma and alcohol abuse.
  • Similarly, curcumin acts to oppose at least seven basic pathways leading to cancer development.
  • Studies in the lab and on live animals demonstrate that curcumin leads to sharp reductions in the occurrence and severity of neurodegenerative disorders and of malignant growths.
  • Those interested in opposing fundamental aging processes should take special notice of curcumin’s remarkable, multitargeted mechanisms capable of slowing and perhaps reversing cognitive decline and cancer risk.

Curcumin and the Aging Brain

There are numerous factors that cause brains to age. These include the cumulative effects of oxidative stress, environmental toxins, inflammation, the buildup of toxic proteins, the loss of energy-generating power, and gradual damage to vital genes in individual cells.

Animal experiments show that curcumin can help protect against these factors in the aging brain. For example, studies demonstrate curcumin’s ability to improve the management of cellular energy and to enhance cellular free radical protection systems. The result is reduced fat oxidation and decreased accumulation of toxic molecules that contribute to premature brain cell death.

In addition, much of curcumin’s value in the aging brain may relate to its ability to turn on genes that trigger the emergence of new brain cells. This exciting discovery was demonstrated in a study of adult mice. When supplemented with curcumin, the mice experienced a significant increase in new neuron formation, particularly in the memory-critical hippocampal area of the brain.6

Evidence is also rapidly accumulating that curcumin plays a major role in protecting existing brain cells from the slow degradation that occurs in disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

As an added benefit, curcumin appears capable of minimizing the impact of acute catastrophes such as stroke and head trauma and chronic toxicity from alcohol.

All of this evidence suggests that curcumin is a versatile anti-aging compound.

Source: http://www.lifeextension.com