Curcumin protects against neurodegenerative effects of lead poisoning
A new study has found that the compound curcumin can reduce memory deficits caused by a higher lead content in the body.
The results of the study, published a few years ago in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, “show that lead significantly increases lipid peroxidation and reduces the viability of primary hippocampal neurons in culture,” according to a summary:
This lead-induced toxicity was significantly curtailed by the co-incubation of the neurons with the curcuminoids. In a whole animal experiment, rats were trained in a water maze and thereafter dosed with lead and/or curcumin (CURC), demethoxycurcumin (DMC), or bisdemethoxycurcumin (BDMC) for 5 days. Animals treated with curcumin and demethoxycurcumin but not bisdemethoxycurcumin had more glutathione and less oxidized proteins in the hippocampus than those treated with lead alone.
Researchers also found that the rats had better, faster escape tendencies compared to the lead (Pb)-treated animals, which indicated that curcumin- and demethoxycurcumin-treated animals “retain the spatial reference memory,” the summary said.
Researchers from the Faculty of Pharmacy, Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Biotechnology, Rhodes University, in Grahamstown, South Africa, conducted the study. Their results were published in 2007.
Helps curb inflammation, improves heart health
More from the summary:
These animals also had faster escape latencies when compared to the Pb-treated animals indicating that CURC- and DMC-treated animals retain the spatial reference memory. The findings of this study indicate that curcumin, a well-established dietary antioxidant, is capable of playing a major role against heavy metal-induced neurotoxicity and has neuroprotective properties.
Curcumin, a spice which gives curry powder its characteristic yellow coloring, has also been found to have other health benefits.
For instance, curcumin has been found to reduce atherosclerotic lesions – which helps prevent heart problems – and lower damaging inflammation. In 2008, a National Institutes of Health study found that much of what had been asserted about the compound since ancient times was valid and worth further research:
Although safe in most cases, ancient treatments are ignored because neither their active component nor their molecular targets are well defined. This is not the case, however, with curcumin, a yellow-pigment substance and component ofturmeric (Curcuma longa), which was identified more than a century ago. For centuries it has been known that turmeric exhibits anti-inflammatory activity, but extensive research performed within the past two decades has shown that this activity of turmeric is due to curcumin (diferuloylmethane).
Diet supplemented with curcumin, plus exercise
As noted by scientists, inflammation processes have long been known to cause significant long-term health problems. Indeed, researchers have identified inflammation as often playing a major role in most chronic illnesses, “including neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, autoimmune and neoplastic diseases,” the NIH study notes, adding:
In the current review, we provide evidence for the potential role of curcumin in the prevention and treatment of various proinflammatory chronic diseases. These features, combined with the pharmacological safety and negligible cost, render curcumin an attractive agent to explore further.
As for reducing cardiac problems, researchers have regularly found that a diet augmented with curcumin – which is best absorbed from turmeric root rather than from supplements – in combination with regular exercise can help lower the incidence of heart disease.
The latest studies in this realm were conducted and published by researchers from the University of Tsukuba in Japan. In all three, the researchers found that exercise and diets rich in curcumin produced significant increases in cardiac health.
“[R]egular ingestion of curcumin could be a preventive measure against cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women,” the authors of the first study wrote. “Furthermore, our results suggest that curcumin may be a potential alternative … for patients who are unable to exercise.”