According to a study led by Tze-Pin Ng from the National University of Singapore, curcumin is the ingredient in curry that may be responsible for the improved cognitive performance.
The researchers' study examined the dietary habits of 1,010 elderly Asians between the ages of 60 and 93 years old, with particular emphasis on curry consumption habits.
The researchers asked the study participants to classify their curry consumption as "occasionally," (once every six months) "often" or "very often," (between monthly and daily) and "never" or "rarely."
Most of the participants reported occasional curry consumption, while 43 percent ate it often or very often and 16 percent reported rarely or never eating curcumin-rich curry.
After examining the participants' consumption habits, the researchers compared the various groups' scores in three categories on the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE). Those who reported "occasional" curry consumption, as well as those with "often" or "very often" consumption habits scored significantly better on the MMSE test than those who "never" or "rarely" ate the spice.
Tze-Pin Ng believes that curcumin -- a main spice in curry -- is rich in powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that protect the brain from harmful oxidation and may help prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
The curcumin found in curry has also proven effective at treating a wide range of illnesses, including prostate cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, Alzheimer's disease, leukemia and various liver disorders.