I hate to break it to you, but your brain is shrinking.
Mine is too.
It’s something that happens to everyone with age, and it’s the reason that the term “senior moments” exists.
As your brain shrinks, so does your memory, concentration and overall brain power. And suddenly, you have more moments where you misplace your sunglasses (on your head) or forget the name of an acquaintance you run into at the grocery store.
Now, despite the fact that brain shrinking and the consequences that come with it are considered a normal part of aging, you’re not doomed to a future filled with embarrassing and forgetful moments. There are ways to slow (or even reverse) brain shrinkage and cognitive decline, so you don’t notice much (if any) difference in your cognitive skills as you get older.
Exercise has been shown to counteract age-related brain shrinkage. So has meditation. And what you eat has also been proven in countless studies to have an impact on how your brain ages. In fact, a new study shows that potent doses of two spices could keep your cognitive skills sharp as a cactus needle well into your senior years…
A cinnamon and turmeric supplement makes older brains sharper
A recent study from researchers at Swansea University in the U.K. found that a supplement stacking cinnamon, turmeric/curcumin, chromium and alpha-lipoic acid improved cognitive abilities in healthy older adults.
The study included 30 adults between 51 and 79 years old. For three months, half of them consumed the supplement and half of them consumed a placebo. Researchers wanted to see how the supplement influenced blood sugar, cholesterol and cognitive abilities. It had a somewhat positive impact on blood sugar and cholesterol. But the most significant impact was on their cognition…
People who took the supplement had much better word recall and reaction times than people who took the placebo. Why? Well, most likely because of the strong doses of cinnamon and curcumin they received in the supplement.
Past research on cinnamon, for example, has shown that it has a remarkably positive impact on brain health. In fact, a 2015 study published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience showed that cinnamon extract shielded rats from oxidative stress-related damage to their brains and cognitive impairment. Cinnamon has also been shown to reduce inflammation, enhance memory, strengthen attention span and improve cognitive processing in humans.
Curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory compound in turmeric, has been shown to reduce inflammation in the brain. This is good news since brain inflammation is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin supplements have also been shown in past studies to improve older adults’ scores on memory tests and lower the number of cognitive decline markers visible in brain scans.
Clearly, these two spices have some serious cognitive health clout and have gained a reputation as effective nootropics. Although, the two other ingredients in the supplements study participants took — chromium and alpha-lipoic acid — are also linked to cognitive health benefits. So, they may deserve some of the credit, too.
How to harness the brain-boosting benefits of cinnamon and turmeric
Including more cinnamon and turmeric in your diet is a wonderful idea if you’re trying to maintain a healthy brain as you age. Here are a few ideas:
- Put a heaping dose of cinnamon in your oatmeal
- Add extra cinnamon to your chai tea
- Sprinkle cinnamon in your yogurt
- Use cinnamon in savory dishes like stews and chilis
- Add turmeric to your eggs
- Try turmeric tea
- Have curry dishes more often
In some cases, however, you may need a more potent dose of these spices than you can get through diet alone. That’s where supplements come in.
The supplement used in the study was a 1,400 mg blend of cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia bark extract), curcumin/turmeric (Curcumin Longa L. root extract and powder), chromium and alpha-lipoic acid. You may want to look for something similar to support your brain health. Of course, you’ll want to talk to your doctor before starting new supplements, especially if you have any existing health conditions or are on any medications to make sure there are no negative interactions.
- Effects of a Cinnamon, Curcumin/Turmeric Dietary Supplement on Glucose, Lipid, and Cognitive Measures — Current Developments in Nutrition.
- Spice up your holidays with brain-healthy seasonings — Harvard Health Publishing.
- 4 Spices That Give Your Brain a Boost — University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
- 5 Spices with Healthy Benefits — John Hopkins Medicine.
- Possible Role of Common Spices as a Preventive and Therapeutic Agent for Alzheimer’s Disease — International Journal of Preventive Medicine.
- Ageing and the brain — Postgraduate Medical Journal.