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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Health Note: Preventing Alzheimer's

Air Date: Week of

Living on Earth’s Diane Toomey reports on a study that shows a common Indian spice might play a role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.


CURWOOD: Coming up, New York City's old dump acquires new dignity in the aftermath of 9/11. First, this environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.


TOOMEY: There's evidence to suggest that anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen may help protect against Alzheimer's disease since they reduce brain inflammation. But, excessive use of these substances can cause intestinal liver and kidney damage. Now, a study suggests there might be an alternative.

India has one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer's disease. It also has one of the highest rates of curry consumption. Turmeric is an important ingredient in curry, and turmeric contains curcumin, a well-known anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory herb. So, using mice specially bred to develop Alzheimer's, researchers at UCLA fed one group a normal diet. Another group of mice received the same diet, but with a low dose of curcumin added. After six months, brain biopsies showed the curcumin eating mice had less inflammation compared to mice that didn't eat the spice.

These mice also had less oxidative damage to brain cells and produced smaller amounts of a protein associated with Alzheimer's disease. Researchers caution that while the study is promising, there's no research to suggest that curcumin would have similar effects in humans.

That's this week's Health Note. I'm Diane Toomey.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Chet Baker, "Isn't It Romantic?", MY FUNNY VALENTINE (Capitol - 1994)]




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