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Turmeric for Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

dementia & alzheimers

Turmeric, a powerful herb used for centuries, has been shown to help with Alzheimer’s disease.

It boasts anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that make it a powerful healing herb for many diseases and chronic health issues, including neurodegenerative diseases.

Studies about Turmeric and Brain Health

Over the last decade, more research has emerged demonstrating the role of curcumin in preventing neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, making it a fast-growing option for nutraceutical intervention. In addition to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, curcumin also has anti-carcinogenic, hepatoprotective, cardioprotective, anti-arthritic, anti-infectious, and neuroprotective properties.

One study8 shows how curcumin positively impacts a variety of the cells in our brain including neurons, astrocytes, and microglia. Consuming a therapeutic dose of turmeric extract can counteract the negative effects of heavy metals, pro-inflammatory cytokines, protein kinases, and other enzymes in the body, including amyloid β plaques (Aβ).

In an experiment9 where 214 antioxidant compounds were tested, curcumin showed the strongest inhibitor effect on the formation of Aβ fibrils largely responsible for Alzheimer’s disease.

Additionally, curcumin in vitro reduces the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1α, IL-6, and TNF-α in LPS-stimulated BV2 microglia thereby reducing chronic neuroinflammation associated with neurodegenerative diseases.

We have not yet discussed phagocytes, but they are types of white blood cells that are also part of our body’s natural protective immune response. These are cells in the body that are responsible for eating other cells or particles, typically harmful ones via a process referred to as phagocytosis. It’s known that amyloids can be cleared via microglial phagocytosis in the brain and that curcumin stimulates this process10.

Turmeric’s antioxidant effects are also helpful in preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies show that curcuminoids can inhibit the formation and propagation of free radicals by decreasing low-density lipoprotein oxidation and the free radicals that contribute to neuron deterioration in Alzheimer’s as well as other neurological diseases including Huntington’s and Parkinson’s. One study demonstrated11 just 500mg of Curcuma oil given to rats significantly improved neurological deficit and counteracted oxidative stress.

Why is it a Big Deal that Turmeric Extract Fights Brain Inflammation?

Certain foods create systemic inflammation in the body, including the brain, and we know that all modern degenerative diseases — including Alzheimer’s and dementia — are diseases of inflammation. This inflammation also creates something known as oxidative stress, which occurs when we experience an imbalance in the body between free radicals and antioxidants. Free radicals are highly unstable molecules4 that occur when we exercise as well as during our regular metabolic processes like eating. But a lot of the free radicals we are exposed to today are a result of a toxic environment and unhealthy lifestyle.

Antioxidants are meant to counteract the harmful effects of too many free radicals circulating in the body. We do make antioxidants naturally, but we can also get them from healthy fruits and vegetables. When we lack those antioxidants, the free radicals can create oxidative stress, which causes damage to our cells and leads to chronic inflammation. Over time, oxidative stress contributes to many diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and cataracts.

But it actually gets even more complicated than that. Two well-known indicators for Alzheimer’s Disease and the associated cognitive decline are amyloid β plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Additionally, a third pathology5 has emerged in recent years: a sustained immune response that activates the brain’s macrophages (microglia) and other immune cells that exacerbate both amyloid and tau pathology and associated systemic inflammation.

Temporary inflammation has always been a protective mechanism that our immune system activates when it experiences a threat or injury. The same occurs in the brain. You might experience acute inflammation after a traumatic brain injury such as a concussion, or surgery. Certain tissues will inflame to protect the damaged area until our immune system can work to heal us.

However, if our microglia (glial immune cells located in our brain and spinal cord) are constantly being activated, they release pro-inflammatory and toxic products, including a cytokine known as interleukin 1 (IL-1) that can increase the output of harmful amyloid β plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Microglia should remain largely inactive within our central nervous system. With the presence of amyloid β plaques, microglia become activated and if this activation occurs long enough, we will experience a pro-inflammatory cytokine response that releases neurological toxins and damages our neurons. As this process repeats itself in a self-destructive loop, the end result is neurodegeneration.

Neurons  background

More research12 has identified that natural curcumin can induce hemoxygenase, a protein that provides efficient cytoprotection against various forms of oxidative stress, by halting the activation of the Nrf2-keap1 pathway and binding to no-1ARE. This increase in hemoxygenase activity results in the release of oxidized glutathione13, which is one of the most powerful antioxidants in the body that protects our mitochondria against endogenous oxygen radicals.

Turmeric has also been shown to help combat heavy metal toxicity in the body that can exacerbate neurotoxicity and neuroinflammation. Heavy metals such as copper, aluminum, lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury bioaccumulate in the body and have been shown14 to affect brain physiology and immunity. Curcumin interacts with cadmium and lead in particular to prevent the neurotoxicity associated15 with these metals and also binds to essential metals like copper, iron and zinc to suppress inflammatory damage.

Neurotoxins in Turmeric? Choose your Turmeric carefully.

Higher up in the article we briefly discussed the debilitating effects of heavy metal toxicity in the body, and the brain in particular. Lead is one such heavy metal that increases neurotoxicity, and unfortunately, it can be found in some of the turmeric powders on the market.

In a 2019 Stanford study, researchers uncovered some of the turmeric coming out of Bangladesh, India had been adulterated with lead. In some instances, this contamination was traced all the way back to the 1980s. According to the study17, following a major flood in the area that dulled the color of a lot of the turmeric crops, many processors began adding lead chromate -- an industrial pigment — as a cheap and fast way to restore the vibrant yellow color.

Since then, more than 15 different turmeric brands have been recalled due to excess lead. Food adulteration is not a new concern and heavy metals are one of the more popular contaminants that can be found in powdered green teas like matcha, farmed fish, many household products and even tap water.

In fact, there are more foods, products, and supplements that contain lead than you’d probably like to believe. We have lead in our soil from manufacturing runoff, it’s in our plants, fruits and vegetables, canned foods, spices/herbs, and farmed fish, and as I mentioned above, it’s in our drinking water.

Because heavy metals bioaccumulate in the body’s bones, meaning they build up over time, this can also cause psychiatric issues18 like anxiety, depression, and even chronic fatigue. Other neurological symptoms can occur as a result of chronic lead exposure, including decreased processing speed, fine and gross motor deficits, and severe cognitive decline.

Select the Best Turmeric Supplement to Fight Inflammation

The research is clear in the fact that curcumin provides anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits that can help reduce neuroinflammation and toxicity associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. However, we do not exist in a vacuum and there is very rarely one solution to preventing chronic illness.

There are many different factors that impact our overall neurological health. That’s why it’s important to focus on holistic measures in addition to supplementing with turmeric extract such as making sure you are getting regular exercise, eating a whole food nutrient-dense diet that is anti-inflammatory in nature, and getting adequate rest while maintaining stress levels.

If you are interested in adding in a turmeric extract supplement as part of your ongoing health regimen, be sure to consult with your doctor first so that you understand any potential risks.

If your doctor gives you the green light, you’ll want to find a trusted and transparent company like Active Atoms that regularly sends their turmeric extract to an independent lab for ongoing contamination testing.

Active Atoms contains 750 mg of premium Turmeric Extract per capsule. Many brands only contain 50-100 mg of turmeric extract per capsule and fill the rest of their capsule with turmeric powder which doesn't contain enough curcuminoids.

The curcuminoids contain most of the health benefits and studies typically used 500-2000 mg per day to achieve a therapeutic benefit.

Make sure you get enough Turmeric Extract if you want cognitive and memory-boosting benefits and start taking Active Atoms daily.

Disclaimer: Active Atoms is not intended to diagnose or treat diseases like Alzheimer's or Dementia.

About Dr. Marc Robinson, PT, DPT, Cert. MDT