Turmeric enhances memory.bengal*foam/Flickr

Including a pinch of turmeric to the daily diet can boost your memory, says a new study.

Regular intake of the spice can particularly benefit diabetics, who are at a greater risk of developing cognitive impairment, according to a team of researchers from Monash University.

For the study, Professor Mark Wahlqvist, from the Monash Asia Institute and his research team looked at 48 pre-diabetic patients, aged 60 and above.

As part of the experiment, the participants received either a placebo, one gram of turmeric, two grams of cinnamon or both turmeric and cinnamon along with their breakfast. Memory skills of the participants were tested both before and after the experiment.

Turmeric intake was associated with considerable improvement in working memory - from 2.6 to 2.9 out of 3 - within six hours. However, cinnamon didn't bring any noticeable impact on the memory power.

"We found that this modest addition to breakfast improved working memory over six hours in older people with pre-diabetes," Professor Wahlqvist said in a news release.

Researchers attributed the occurrence to an active ingredient found in turmeric called curcumin. They cited certain studies that had linked the compound to reduce the risk of dementia, a syndrome related to the brain that leads to memory loss, difficulties in communicating, thinking, planning and performing daily routines.

"Our findings with turmeric are consistent with these observations, insofar as they appear to influence cognitive function where there is disordered energy metabolism and insulin resistance," Professor Wahlqvist said.

The findings are significant as working memory is one of the most important mental abilities needed for proper execution of planning, problem solving and reasoning. Working memory has long been used to determine cognition and signal risk of memory impairment or dementia.

A study conducted by researchers from the Albany University in US had earlier indicated that dementia may be one of the end stages of diabetes. Professor Ewan McNay and colleagues found that high levels of insulin involved with type 2 diabetes entered the brain, disturbed functions of important chemicals, led to the formation of protein plaques and tangles, and finally damaged the brain cells.

In another study from France, menopausal women with diabetes and high levels of the hormone oestrogen had greater risk of developing dementia than others.

Findings of the current study have been reported in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

How Adding Turmeric to Daily Diet can Help You: Some Research-Proven Benefits

  • Breast-Cancer: A study reported in the journal Cancer Prevention Research found that curcumin containing capsules shrunk breast tumours in mice.
  • Bowel Cancer: Scientists from the Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health Research Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) reported in May 2012 that curcumin killed bowel cancer cells in the lab.
  • Lung damage associated with premature Birth: A study reported in the American Journal of Physiology, Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, found that curcumin, protected premature babies against the risk of lung damage (BPD) and hyperoxia ( a condition that is caused by excess oxygen in the body).
  • Heart disease: Wanwarang Wongcharoen and colleagues from Chiang Mai University in Thailand found that curcumin prevented heart attacks after bypass surgery.