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Memory and Brain Amyloid and Tau Effects of Curcumin in Non-Demented Adults: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled 18-Month Trial

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Small, G., Siddarth, P., Ercoli, L., Wong, K.-P., Martinez, J., Emerson, N., et al. (2017). Memory and Brain Amyloid and Tau Effects of Curcumin in Non-Demented Adults: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled 18-Month Trial. Alzheimer's & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring, 13(7 Supplement): P4-025, P1264.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000C-9227-3
Because the anti-inflammatory and anti-amyloid properties of curcumin could protect the brain from age-related neurodegeneration and memory decline, we studied the effects of curcumin on memory performance in non-demented adults and explored its potential impact on brain amyloid plaques and tau tangles using FDDNP-PET.
Methods: Forty subjects (age 51 to 84 years) were randomized to a bioavailable form of curcumin (Theracurmin® 90 mg twice daily [N=21] or placebo [N=19]) for 18 months. Primary outcome measures were verbal (Buschke Selective Reminding Test [SRT]) and visual (Brief Visual Memory Test-Revised [BVMT-R]) memory. Change in attention (Trail Making Test, part A) was a secondary outcome. FDDNP-PET signals (15 curcumin, 15 placebo) were determined at baseline and 18 months in amygdala, hypothalamus, medial and lateral temporal, posterior cingulate, parietal, and frontal regions. Analyses included mixed effects general linear models with age and education as covariates, and effect size (ES; Cohen's d) estimates.
Results: SRT Consistent Long-Term Retrieval scores improved in the curcumin group (change=20.3, ES=0.63, t(37)=3.3, p=.002) but not in the placebo group (change=1.9, ES=0.06, t(37)=0.3, p=.8; between group difference: ES=0.68, t(37)=2.1, p=.05). The curcumin group improved in other verbal memory scores, including SRT Total (change=8.0, ES=0.53, t(37)=3.3, p=.002) and Long-Term Storage (change=7.8, ES=0.40, t(37)=2.8, p=.02), as well as in visual memory (BVMT-R Recall: change=3.7, ES=0.50, t(37)=2.7, p=.01; BVMT-R Delay: change=1.4, ES=0.51, t(37)=2.9, p=.006). Daily curcumin use also improved attention (Trails A change=8.0, ES=0.96, t(37)=4.9, p<.0001) compared with placebo (change=2.8, ES=0.28, t(37)=1.7, p=.1; between group difference: ES= 0.67, t(37)=2.2, p=.04). After 18 months, FDDNP binding was lower in the curcumin than in the placebo group in the amygdala (ES=-0.41, t(28)=-2.2, p=.04 vs. ES=0.08, t(28)=.5, p=.6; between group difference: ES=0.48, F(1,28)=3.7, p=.07) and the hypothalamus (ES=-0.30, t(28)=-1.3, p=.2 vs. ES=0.26, t(28)=2.1, p=.05; between group difference: ES=0.55, F(1,28)=5.7, p=.02).
Conclusions: These results suggest that daily oral Theracurmin® leads to improved memory and attention in non-demented middle-aged and older adults. The FDDNP-PET findings raise the hypothesis that decreases in plaque and tangle accumulation in brain regions modulating mood and memory are associated with curcumin supplementation.