Turmeric can help fight cancer/ Alzheimer
( Turmeric, Manjal,
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An extract found in the bright yellow curry spice turmeric can kill
off cancer cells, scientists have shown.
The chemical – curcumin – has long been thought to have healing powers and
is already being tested as a treatment for arthritis and even dementia.
Now tests by a team at the Cork Cancer Research Centre show it can destroy
gullet cancer cells in the lab.
Cancer experts said the findings in the British Journal of Cancer could
help doctors find new treatments.
Dr Sharon McKenna and her team found that curcumin started to kill cancer
cells within 24 hours.
The cells also began to digest themselves, after the curcumin triggered
lethal cell death signals.
Dr McKenna said: “Scientists have known for a long time that natural
compounds have the potential to treat faulty cells that have become
cancerous and we suspected that curcumin might have therapeutic value.”
Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK,
said: “This is interesting research which opens up the possibility that
natural chemicals found in turmeric could be developed into new treatments
for oesophageal cancer.
“Rates of oesophageal cancer rates have gone up by more than a half since
the 70s and this is thought to be linked to rising rates of obesity, alcohol
intake and reflux disease so finding ways to prevent this disease is
Meanwhile, a US researcher suggests eating a curry once or twice a week
could help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
The key ingredient again is curcumin, a component of the spice turmeric.
Curcumin appears to prevent the spread of amyloid protein plaques – thought
to cause dementia – in the brain.
Amyloid plaques, along with tangles of nerve fibres, are thought to
contribute to the degradation of the wiring in brain cells, eventually
leading to symptoms of dementia.
Professor Murali Doraiswamy, of Duke University in North Carolina, said
there was evidence that people who eat a curry meal two or three times a
week have a lower risk of dementia.
He said researchers were testing the impact of higher doses – the
equivalent of going on a curry spree for a week – to see if they could
maximise the effect.
“There is very solid evidence that curcumin binds to plaques, and basic
research on animals engineered to produce human amyloid plaques has shown
benefits,” said Prof Doraiswamy.
“You can modify a mouse so that at about 12 months its brain is riddled
“If you feed this rat a curcumin-rich diet it dissolves these plaques. The
same diet prevented younger mice from forming new plaques.
“The next step is to test curcumin on human amyloid plaque formation using
newer brain scans and there are plans for that.”
Prof Doraiswamy said a clinical trial was now underway at the University of
California, Los Angeles, to test curcumin’s effects in Alzheimer’s patients.
He said research had also examined turmeric’s therapeutic potential for
treating conditions such as cancer and arthritis.
He stressed that eating a curry could not counter-balance the increased
risk of dementia associated with a poor diet.
However, he said: “If you have a good diet and take plenty of exercise,
eating curry regularly could help prevent dementia.”
Prof Doraiswamy predicted it might be possible to develop a curry pill
which had the same therapeutic effect.
However, Rebecca Wood, of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, stressed that
people would need to eat a lot of curry – over 100g of turmeric curry powder
– to get a clinical dose of curcumin.
She said: “Professor Doraiswamy’s unpublished research applies only to
animal models; his hypothesis has not been confirmed in human clinical
“We look forward to the results of the human curcumin trial at UCLA.”
Dr Susanne Sorensen, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Indian communities
that regularly eat curcumin have a surprisingly low incidence of Alzheimer’s
disease but we don’t yet know why.
“Alzheimer’s Society is keen to explore the potential benefits of curcumin
in protecting the brain and we are conducting our own research into this
“A cheap, accessible and safe treatment could transform the quality of life
of thousands of people with the condition.” –