A study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles found that a daily dose of curcumin, an active ingredient found in the turmeric root, could help boost memory and mood in patients. The 18-month study also found that the improvements were visible at both a cognitive and cellular level.
The report, published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, was the first double blind, placebo-controlled, long-term trial on the effect of curcumin in non-demented adults. According to the study, 21 adults between the ages of 50-90 were given a 90 mg curcumin supplement to take twice daily. About 19 adults were given a placebo with the same dosage.
Researchers found that those who received curcumin supplementation had improved memory function by 28 percent over the study period. Their depression scores also improved, while the placebo group experienced no change.
Although researchers have not identified the mechanism behind curcumin’s effects on memory function, they suspect that it has to do with the ingredient’s ability to reduce brain inflammation. This condition has been linked to depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
The results from this study may increase the demand for turmeric as a functional ingredient. With the root already being used in a variety of foods as a healthy ingredient, these study findings are likely to make turmeric even more appealing to consumers.
A report by Future Market Insights estimates the global turmeric market to grow at a CAGR of 5.5 percent through 2027. However, the report predicts that curcumin supplements will dominate sales in this market.
With many food manufacturers transitioning their product portfolios to include natural and organic ingredients, turmeric positions itself as an opportune ingredient for such formulations. Additionally, the root provides a natural yellow coloring that can take the place of artificial food coloring options. In 2015, Kraft replaced the Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 food colorings in their macaroni and cheese products with a mixture of turmeric, paprika and annatto. The change went unnoticed until the company announced their new natural formulation months later.
The only flaw in UCLA’s study is that the participants were relatively healthy and did not have cognitive problems to start with. Further research on a larger group of individuals needs to be done in order to confirm the effects of curcumin on cognition.