After my talk, I became curious and reviewed the literature on whether curcumin (the bioactive component of turmeric, used in day-to-day cooking and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries) could protect against this horrible disease where the sufferer is robbed of memory, feelings and personality. This is a disease where the suffering is just as horrible for the people taking care of the patient. And while there's one FDA-approved medication (Aricept) that seems to slow down progression by about 9 months, there is none that reverse the disease.
So I was excited to read the research on on mice models of Alzheimer's, which tell of curcumin actually reversing one of two likely causes. The current consensus is that the two causes of Alzheimer's dementia are (1) increased production and accumulation of a protein named Amyloid-beta 42 around brain cells, and (2) accumulation of another protein named tau tangles inside brain cells, both of which evoke an inflammatory response leading to the eventual death of these brain cells.
Gary Cole, Ph.D., a UCLA researcher, has shown in vitro experiments (such as in petri dishes in the lab) and in mice that curcumin has 3 major effects that appear to fight the Amyloid cause of Alzheimer's: it (a) breaks down Amyloid-beta so that it doesn't accumulate, (b) prevents the protein from forming, and (c) helps reduce how much cholesterol is available in the brain.