The Other I

July 9, 2016

The orange glow

I was intrigued when I was recently reading what I thought initially was a serious review of the research into dementia.  The author – a medical doctor – claimed that curcumin (which includes the spice tumeric) drastically reduces the rate of Altzheimer’s disease, a fact demonstrated by India, where the reported percentage of this debilitating disease is lower than in any other country in the world.

Then I realized what I was reading was an advertisement for tumeric supplements.  Not just any tumeric supplements either.  Only high quality supplements will bring about the desired results.

I started to ask a few obvious questions:

  • What percentage of the population over the age of 60 in India have been in contact with a qualified professional who might have made a diagnosis of some kind of dementia?  I know more than one case in both the US and Britain where an elderly person suffering from dementia is being taken care of by family members and who have not seen a doctor in years.
  • To make matters even less clear, a certain diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is extremely difficult if not impossible without a post-mortem examination of the brain of the affected person.
  • And since the advertisement insisted that the quality of tumeric supplements was important, it may be relevant to ask just what kind and how much of this treasured spice is consumed on average every day in India.

There was no discussion of any of these issues vital to substantiating the claims made.

So to claim that India has a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease than any other country in the world, let alone to claim that this is a result of the fact that so many Indians eat curry spiced with tumeric, is highly dubious.

I have tumeric in something I eat almost everyday because I like it.  I am aware that claims for it are made for curcumin as an antioxidant, for reducing joint pain, the incidence of cancer, brain & heart disease, depression and the side effects of many cancer treatments.  I strongly suspect that tumeric, like many herbs and spices, is very good for us.

But if it’s a miracle, science has not yet proven it.

Sometimes I think the differences between religious faith, political promises, and scientific claims are indiscernible.

 

 

 

 

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10 Comments »

  1. Did you see that show on ageing with Angela Ripon? Very interesting. Part of the show was about a community of nuns who all give their brains to science so they can work back the dementia thing. One interesting thing was that the nuns who used complex sentence structure in their youth were less likely to lose brain mass in later life.

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    Comment by sanstorm — July 10, 2016 @ 5:44 pm | Reply

    • I haven’t seen the show with Angela Ripon, but I am familiar with the research which has been going on for some years with some fascinating insights already. But it is worth remembering that they are a community of nuns — the complicating factors of illegal drug or alcohol abuse are not apt to be contributing causes. Nor are unhealthy diets or insufficient sleep. But I think the researchers have found that along with using complex sentences in youth, nuns who engaged in regular exercise were also less likely to suffer from severe dementia. I applaud their generosity and am grateful for it.

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      Comment by Terry Sissons — July 11, 2016 @ 3:57 pm | Reply

      • Not related to the nuns – there was another interesting segment about an isolated community somewhere in the far far east, where the diet staple is purple sweet potato. A really high percentage of people live healthily past 100. The recommendation was that, of one’s five-a-day of fruit and veg, two should be purple. So Ribena and an aubergine sandwich are the way to go.

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        Comment by sanstorm — July 12, 2016 @ 7:52 am

      • I’m not familiar with the research you describe. It sounds extremely interesting, though I doubt longevity can be boiled down (excuse the pun) to something as simple as purple potatoes. Genetic factors are unquestionably involved, as well as many other environmental factors including clean air & water. But the “2 purple a day” recipe syncs with the many recommendations that we eat a “rainbow” of fruit & veg every day, doesn’t it? I’ve noticed since I’ve introduced cherries & beets into my diet, supplemented by other purples – blackberries, purple sprouting broccoli, purple cabbage, purple cauliflower, etc – that my average blood pressure has dropped by about ten points.

        When we were living in Spain, we visited a mountain-top village where the gravestones indicated an awful lot of people had lived into their 100’s. The villagers thought it was due to the fact that the nearest road to the village was a mile away – at the bottom of the hill. Everything had to be carried or pushed up in a cart. They didn’t even have inside toilet facilities. The outside arrangements were a 15 minute walk away from the homes.

        Hmmm: think I’ll stick with my rainbow. (Seriously, your recent change in lifestyle including serious exercise must be worth one purple potato a day, don’t you think?)

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        Comment by Terry Sissons — July 12, 2016 @ 2:09 pm

  2. I agree. We include turmeric in our daily meals. And there were at least 2 known cases of dementia in my family – my mom and aunt. Of course they were in eighties/nineties.

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    Comment by tskraghu — July 25, 2016 @ 10:21 am | Reply

    • “The eighties and nineties” is beginning to feel right around the corner for me these days. I’d love to think we knew how to prevent dementia. But we still don’t even have a cure. They are working on it though. Perhaps you will see the day.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Terry Sissons — July 25, 2016 @ 3:50 pm | Reply

      • I think you have already protected yourself against it. I’m told people who are quite active are a lot less likely. Our ladies (my mom, aunt…) have never taken good care of their health, physical and mental – not very many interests outside their family. Quite unfortunate.

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        Comment by tskraghu — July 25, 2016 @ 7:48 pm

      • People from a southern state Kerala also enjoy longevity more than average. Coconut is an important part of their diet. I haven’t checked if there is enough data to back up my observation.
        .

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        Comment by tskraghu — July 25, 2016 @ 7:52 pm

  3. Yes, I think the evidence does suggest that life style is an important factor in the development of dementia. In retrospect, I see the facts that I’m almost a teetotaler because I suffer terrible hangovers from alcohol, and that I developed osteoporosis which motivates me not to give up daily exercise to be two hidden gifts in my life. Hope so anyway.

    I have read some research on the benefits of coconut, but haven’t seen it connected to dementia. It is always stocked in our local supermarket in the Asian section – which is one reason why we shop at that particular supermarket. I’m getting just a little bit concerned, though, at the number of prepared, pre-packaged foods that are appearing there these days. We’d rather do it ourselves in our house.

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    Comment by theotheri — July 25, 2016 @ 8:03 pm | Reply

  4. I didn’t know people from Kerala had a longer longevity than average. These days I tend to ask about levels of exercise, quality of water & air, and of course nutrition.

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    Comment by theotheri — July 25, 2016 @ 8:06 pm | Reply


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