Dr Mosley says popular spice could keep your brain in ‘better shape’

Placing sliced onions into a heated frying pan, Dr Michael Mosley started this episode of his podcast Just One Thing by preparing a vegetarian curry. After leaving the onions to sizzle away, he added the “most important” part – a golden spice. This ingredient can not only tackle inflammation but it could also keep your brain in “better shape”, according to the doctor.

The colourful spice that Dr Mosley used to season his curry with was turmeric.

Whether you drink it in a latte or prefer to sprinkle it over savoury dishes, the link between turmeric and good health is “nothing new”.

Speaking on the podcast, the doctor said: “It’s been used in ancient Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years to alleviate liver problems and digestive ailments. 

“Over the last couple of decades or so, scientific research into turmeric, and in particular, into its active ingredient – curcumin – has exploded, with lots of studies exploring the health effects of this golden spice.

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“And some of the findings have been impressive.”

A 2022 study found that people who ate a lot of turmeric-rich curries like Korma kept their brains in “better shape”.

The research ran for nearly five years and followed 2,700 older adults.

The participants showed improvements in things like working memory and problem-solving.

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“The authors suggested that it’s the curcumin, which is a polyphenol in turmeric, which is responsible for these positive effects,” said Dr Mosley.

Furthermore, turmeric is also considered to be an anti-inflammatory, with research backing this power.

Dr Mosley said: “In an Australian study, where they gave curcumin in pill form to 80 older individuals, they found that compared to placebo, taking the supplements improved working memory and reduced fatigue.

“One way that it might be working is by reducing inflammation.”

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Worryingly, diets high in foods associated with inflammation may accelerate brain ageing, increasing your risk of dementia. 

This is where turmeric could step in and provide a helping hand, boosting your brain health.

Now, before you start adding the golden spice to all of your meals and treats, there are a few rules that need to be followed.

Dr Mosley said: “A big problem with curcumin is that normally very little of it gets absorbed.”

Fortunately, pairing the spice with fat and pepper could help you take up more of the potent part. 

Both pepper and fatty foods increase the bioavailability of curcumin, making creamy curries and turmeric lattes the ideal candidates.

Dr Mosley added: “So, if you’re looking for an excuse to have a delicious hot drink or perhaps that curry you’ve been craving, here it is – add in some turmeric. 

“It could boost your brain and take away your pain.”


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