Alzheimer’s (AD) can be a debilitating disease that gradually robs people of their memories. The result is an empty shell of the person they once were. Family members who act as caregivers are left to watch their loved ones become a mindless, selfish and unreasonable being. This disease takes its toll both on caregivers’ emotions and their finances.
You and your friends are likely to be affected by Alzheimer’s in some way. Its rates have been increasing, especially in Westernized nations. Here are some shocking statistics on the disease.
- Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to cost $226 billion dollars in 2015.
- Alzheimer’s disease will kill 1 out of 3 senior citizens (this number is rapidly increasing).
- Alzheimer’s is America’s 6th most common cause of death
- Alzheimer’s disease typically has a life expectancy between 4 and 8 years following diagnosis
Scientists didn’t have a clue about the causes of AD until recently. Now, it is believed that the beta-amyloid protein buildup in the brain may be a major cause. Although not proven to be true, the beta-amyloid hypothesis is gaining more support from scientists. The beta-amyloid protein is thought to accumulate, and when they clump together can lead to a blockage of cell-to-cell communication at synapses. Beta-amyloid can also trigger an immune cell inflammatory reaction that may set off a neurotoxic chain of reactions.
How is beta-amyloid generated?
Multiple theories exist about the formation of beta-amyloid. One theory is that heavy metals from the diet may be a factor. Chelation therapy, or heavy metal removal has shown positive results in the reduction of these deposits. The accumulation of beta-amyloid can also be caused by “sleep debt”, which is a prolonged period of sleep deprivation. These two factors are linked to an increased rate of Alzheimer’s.
Melatonin is a “sleep inducing” brain hormone that has been associated with a reduction in beta-amyloid. It regulates the circadian cycle (sleep/wake) and has been proven to be an effective brain antioxidant. Orexin is another neurotransmitter in the brain that is responsible for wakefulness. It is also the target of nootropics like Modafinil or Adrafinil. Orexin injections increase beta-amyloid levels, and this could be of concern to people using Modafinil or Adrafinil for wakefulness.
Curcumin – The Suspected Active Ingredient of Turmeric
The yellow Indian spice Turmeric has been linked to a reduction in Alzheimer’s. Turmeric’s yellow color is due to the Curcumin substance, which has long been used in Indian and Asian traditional medicine as an antiinflammatory. What’s also notable about AD is the correlation between lower incidences in India and Asia where the Indian diet is high in turmeric, as well as lower overall rates.
Turmeric is also believed to contain Curcumin as the active component, which has health benefits. It is estimated that curcumin makes up between 5-10%. Curcumin has recently been hailed as an alternative to AD treatment. Its supporters claim that curcumin has several mechanisms that help reduce Alzheimer’s symptoms. They cite that beta-amyloid is reduced. The binding of the curcumin molecules directly to beta amyloid or through indirect binding to beta amyloid aggregators that create an environment where beta amyloid can flourish.
Turmeric/curcumin may also have other mechanisms that are not related to the reduction or depletion of beta-amyloid. Curcuminoid, for example, is believed to reduce inflammation – another suspect of Alzheimer’s progress. Curcumin could have neuroprotective properties by reducing heavy metals in the brain. Curcumin is an anti-oxidant with potent antioxidant properties that can reduce the amount of free radicals found in the brain. This has been reported as a possible cause for Alzheimer’s.
CURCUMIN: ABSORPTION Vs. BIOAVAILABILITY
Curcumin is poorly absorbed and bioavailable. Bioavailability is not the same as absorption. Bioavailability refers to how quickly and efficiently a substance can enter the bloodstream. Absorption is about the ability of the substance to be absorbed into the body, while absorption is the amount that the substance gets to the brain. The two main problems with curcumin’s ability to enter the brain can be divided into two categories. It is difficult for curcumin to absorb into the bloodstream and then enter the brain via the blood-brain barrier (bioavailability).
It is easy to increase the rate of absorption for curcumin. Curcumin taken with fat will increase the absorption rate. It is usually taken with fat to make it easier for curcumin to absorb into the intestinal walls. When taking turmeric or curcumin powder, it is best to take them along with fat sources such as coconut, fish, or flax oil.
In addition, curcumin’s bioavailability was the subject of intensive research. Some companies created curcumin modified forms, such as Theracurmin – a unique turmeric preparation. Theracurmin has been modified technologically so that it is 100 times smaller than the curcumin. This is done to improve bioavailability across the blood brain barrier. Other companies also study various ways to increase curcumin’s bioavailability.
Piperine, a component of black pepper is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to boost the bioavailability. Piperine inhibits glucuronidation which is responsible for the breakdown of certain substances within the liver and gut. Human volunteers in good health who combined curcumin with piperine saw a 2000% increase in bioavailability. The half-life for curcumin was also reduced, which meant that the substance remained in the body for longer. The evidence shows that combining curcumin with black pepper is a cost-effective and efficient way to deliver the substance in the brain.
Why choose turmeric over curcumin powder?
Turmeric and curcumin are both available as powders, but there’s evidence to suggest that turmeric is superior. Turmeric contains only 5-10% of curcumin whereas curcumin powder can contain up to 95%. Curcumin may or may not have the ability to do this. There may also be other mechanisms in play. As seen with CBD oil, some natural substances work better than synthetically-produced and isolated equivalents.
There is also a continuing discussion about the other benefits of turmeric. Researchers are investigating the health benefits of other alkaloids, curcuminoids or turmeric compounds such as desmethoxycurcumin. This is because curcumin, on its own, may not have the same benefits as other compounds in turmeric.
SECURITY OF CURCUMIN
Turmeric and curcumin are both natural substances. In high doses, it has been found to be safe and even tested for cancer treatments and chemotherapy. Both have been used at high doses in ancient medicine for many thousands of years.
Curcumin and Turmeric can also cause rare reactions, including allergy symptoms in certain people. It’s important to start with small doses to see how you react. Piperine may also cause drug interactions, so use it with caution to avoid any harmful interactions.
It is not clear whether turmeric is a health-promoting substance. However, the FDA has yet to approve it as a treatment for any diseases (and it’s unlikely that it will be approved without “big pharma’s” funding). The majority of doctors allow you to take turmeric along with any medication. It has also been shown in research that it is well tolerated.
Turmeric is a very promising treatment for many illnesses, although researchers are not yet sure if the turmeric will be 100% effective in treating all diseases. Despite the overwhelming evidence, this remains to be true. Curcumin may have many benefits if you can overcome the absorption issues and bioavailability problems. The two ingredients are readily available and can be used every day.