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The Truth about Turmeric and Alzheimer’s Disease
One risk factor that scientists are aware of is the presence of a protein called apolipoprotein E, which is a naturally occurring protein in the body that helps to carry cholesterol in the blood. Scientists know that there are two forms of this protein, one that protects the brain and the other that does the exact opposite.
A brain with Alzheimer’s has two important abnormalities. First, amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. The plaques we speak of are clumps of protein known as beta amyloid and they are found in the tissue between nerve cells in the brain and degenerating pieces of neurons.
The neurofibrillary tangles are twisted bunches of filaments that are found within the neurons themselves. In Alzheimer’s patients, these filaments are twisted into helical filaments that collect in what are called tangles. This means that the microtubules do not work properly and eventually die off. This results in a collapse of the neuron’s transportation system, so that communication between nerve cells is at first dysfunction, but then later dies entirely.
Studies have suggested that the active ingredient in turmeric, called curcumin, can actually enter the brain, bind to, and then destroy the plaque that is present in those with Alzheimer’s. According to one study performed at Vanderbilt University, curcumin appears to be small enough that it can pass through the blood-brain barrier. This barrier is the body’s natural defense to keep out pathogens. Unfortunately, it has also been a major problem when it comes to developing treatments for this condition.
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