Alzheimer's DementiaElderlyTurmeric

Status of curcumin for Alzheimer’s disease

Two doctors from the VA Medical Center in Sepulveda, California have written a review of curcumin (turmeric) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Anyone looking for evidence of the effectiveness of curcumin when taken by people with AD will be disappointed.

No such studies are discussed in this article or appear in the medical literature for that matter. The available data today do not substantiate taking curcumin by consumers to prevent or treat AD.

Let’s define terms. “Clinical research” is medical research designed to show that a device, drug, or other treatment is safe and effective in humans. “In humans” is the key. Taking body fluids out of a patient and studying it in the laboratory is “laboratory research” or “pre-clinical research.” At best, it’s a rough guide to what might happen when curcumin enters the human body.

Yes, there is a lower prevalence of AD in India compared to the US. And, the frequency of APOE*E4 (a risk factor for AD) is significantly lower in Ballabgarh, India vs the Monongahela Valley in Pennsylvania. However, no epidemiological studies show a cause and effect relationship between curry and AD.

  • Macrophages?
  • Anti-inflammatory effects?
  • Anti-oxidant action?
  • Hemoxygenase?
  • Beta-amyloid plaques?
  • Metal chelation?

Yes, there appears to be a positive effect of curcumin with all of the above. Curcumin also has a cholesterol-lowering effect in humans. And there are drug interactions with anticoagulants, NSAIDs, and reserpine, according to the authors.

The bottom line?
There’s potential here. However, the authors acknowledge many unanswered questions.

  • What is the one main chemical property of curcumin that can be exploited in treating AD?
  • How does curcumin interact with neuronal plaques?
  • Is it effective only as a food additive?
  • Would it be effective when used alone or with other anti-inflammatory drugs?”

The MD Anderson Cancer Center website answers frequently asked questions about curcumin, including its status in AD.

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.