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Universiteit Leiden

Spice up your cognition with curcumin

Spice up your cognition with curcumin Tumeric by Garen M.

Being able to stay focused and having a strong memory is what mostly all students wish for. So, is there a way to fulfill that wish easily with just a few tweaks to our culinary habits?

You may know curcumin as the principal component of curry powder, widely used in indian dishes. Technically, curcumin is the main curcuminoid of turmeric, the former being curcumin responsible for its characteristic yellow color.

So, why should this yellow powder concern you? For starters, add it to plain and boring dinners, and turn them to spicy and delicious. But more importantly, recent evidence suggest that curcumin has a positive effect on cognition.

A recent study investigated the potential benefits of curcumin on cognition on healthy, elderly individuals. They administered 80 mg of curcumin to 30 participants, while on the other 30 they administered a placebo. Both groups received a daily dose for 28 days.

The results showed that curcumin improved performance on sustained attention and working memory compared to the placebo group. These findings are particularly beneficial for elderly individuals as working memory usually declines with healthy cognitive aging.

However, this study is not without problems. The main problem is curcumin’s bioavailability, which is very poor in humans.  But, there is a simple way to move around that: black pepper. Turns out that black pepper increases curcumin's bioavailability by 2000 percent, when taken simultaneously. However, the study failed to take that matter into account, which in turn prompts us to ask what would the implications be if participants actually received black pepper alongside the curcumin supplements.

Of course, the possible benefits of curcumin on cognition in younger populations have not been thoroughly investigated yet. However, this should not discourage you from spicing up your dinner by sprinkling it with curcumin, just don’t forget the black pepper!

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