Eating curry at least once a week may help to stave off dementia, new research suggests.
For perhaps too many Britons, a trip to the curry house is an occasion not associated with improved memory and verbal skills.
But a new trial by Australian scientists indicates that a weekly blast of spicy food will keep people sharper for longer in old age.
Published in the British Journal of Nutrition, the study identifies turmeric, an ingredient used in everything from mild kormas to hot vindaloos, as the beneficial ingredient.
The yellow spice contains curcumin, a chemical thought to block rogue proteins called beta amyloid, which clump together and destroy neurons.
Scientists at Edith Cowan University in Perth studied 96 participants aged between 40 and 90 over 12 months.
Some were given a daily placebo, while others were administered curcumin pills.
In tests of verbal and memory skills, those taking the dummy pill suffered a decline in mental function after just six months that was not observed in those who took curcumin.
Curcumin therapy has also been trialled in animals, but the results in previous human trials has up till now been inconsistent.
Dr Laura Phipps, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said that it was too early to say for sure what effect the chemical could have in fighting dementia.
“Some studies have produced limited evidence very high doses of curcumin – much higher than might be normally found in foods like curry – could have some impact on memory and thinking skills, but large-scale clinical trials will be required before researchers can fully assess any potential benefits.
“The best current evidence suggests that not smoking, staying mentally and physically active, eating a balanced diet, keeping high blood pressure and cholesterol in check, and only drinking within recommended limits can all help to maintain a healthy brain as we age.”