Curcumin: a natural substance with potential efficacy in Alzheimer's disease

Potter, Pamela E.
May 2013
Journal of Experimental Pharmacology;May2013, Vol. 5, p23
Academic Journal
Curcumin is a component of turmeric, a spice used in many types of cooking. Epidemiological evidence suggesting that populations that eat food with a substantial amount of curcumin were at lower risk of Alzheimer's disease (AD) led to the idea that this compound might have a neuroprotective effect. Curcumin has substantial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and is being used as a potential preventative agent or treatment for many types of cancer. There is evidence to suggest that the addition of curcumin to cultured neuronal cells decreases brain inflammation and protects against β-amyloid-induced neurotoxicity. Curcumin also protects against toxicity when β-amyloid is administered to produce animal models of AD. Curcumin decreases β-amyloid formation from amyloid precursor protein, and also inhibits aggregation of β-amyloid into pleated sheets. Studies in transgenic mice with overproduction of β-amyloid demonstrate a neuroprotective effect of curcumin as well. Cognitive function was also improved in these animal models. Clinical trials of curcumin in AD have not been very promising. It is possible that this is due to poor oral bioavailability of curcumin in humans, and thus several approaches are being developed to improve delivery systems or to create analogs that will mimic the neuroprotective effects and easily reach the brain. The lack of efficacy of curcumin in humans with AD may also result from treating for too short a time or starting treatment too late in the course of the disease, where substantial neuronal death has already occurred and cannot be reversed. Curcumin may be beneficial in protecting against development or progression of AD if taken over the long term and started before symptoms of AD become apparent.


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