An ingredient in many curry dishes could hold the key to brain repair, scientists have said.
According the the research from Germany, an ingredient in the yellow curry spice turmeric may hold the key to repairing the brains of people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.
In laboratory tests, aromatic turmerone promoted the proliferation of brain stem cells and their development into neurons, effectively 'regenerating' brain tissue.
The bio-active compound could help scientists develop treatments for conditions in which brain cells are lost, including Alzheimer's and stroke, it is claimed.
Lead researcher Dr Adele Rueger, from the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Julich, Germany, said:
While several substances have been described to promote stem cell proliferation in the brain, fewer drugs additionally promote the differentiation of stem cells into neurons, which constitutes a major goal in regenerative medicine. Our findings on aromatic turmerone take us one step closer to achieving this goal.
A new report has made the case for raising awareness about the way lifestyle choices can affect your risk of dementia later in life.
It points out "there is no evidence strong enough at this time to claim that lifestyle changes will prevent dementia on an individual basis". However, evidence suggests the following could result in a lower risk:
- Stopping smoking
- Improved detection and treatment of diabetes and hypertension
- Increased physical activity and reduction in levels of obesity
- Education in early life
Dr Eric Karran, director of research at charity Alzheimer's Research UK, has welcomed today's report, saying:
Although there is currently no certain way to prevent dementia, this report underlines strong evidence suggesting we can lower our risk by adopting a healthy lifestyle.
A large body of research has linked high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes to an increased risk of dementia, and this analysis serves as another reminder that good heart health is an important route to good brain health.
Studies have also suggested that education in early life may help build a level of 'cognitive reserve', helping the brain to withstand the damage from diseases like Alzheimer's for longer in later life.
Health experts are calling for a major campaign to educate people about how their lifestyle choices can affect their chances of developing dementia in old age.
Factors such as early-life education, blood pressure and smoking can all play a role, according to a report commissioned by Alzheimer's Disease International.
The report argues for a campaign with a central message that "it's never too late" to make lifestyle changes, and that brain health should be factored into other public health campaigns.
Alzheimer's Disease International said that a major survey of 8,500 people from six countries showed that many are not sure how to reduce the risk of developing dementia.
Alzheimer's Research UK has stressed it was "hard to know the underlying reason" after a study linked a popular sedative to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's.
Benzodiazepines have been shown to cause memory problems as part of their side effects and so it is difficult to tease out cause and effect in studies such as this.
We need more long-term research to understand this proposed link and what the underlying reasons behind it may be.
A new study "reinforces the suspicion of an increased risk of Alzheimer-type dementia among benzodiazepine users, particularly long-term users," French and Canadian researchers said.
The scientists identified 1,700 elderly people with Alzheimer's disease and more than 7,000 healthy people for comparison.
Past use of benzodiazepines for three months or more was associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's, according to the study's results.
The risk varied between 43% and 51% and the strength of association increased with the longer exposure, they said.
A popular sedative has been linked with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease in a new study.
Benzodiazepines, which are widely prescribed to treat anxiety and insomnia, have been associated with a heightened risk of developing the condition, particularly for long-term users, according to researchers.
Researchers cautioned that unwarranted long-term use of the drugs should be considered a public health concern.
The study, published in The BMJ, examined data from a health insurance database in Quebec.
Professor Carol Brayne, from Cambridge University's Institute of Public Health, said Alzheimer's could be tackled simply by becoming more active:
Simply tackling physical inactivity, for example, will reduce levels of obesity, hypertension and diabetes, and prevent some people from developing dementia as well as allowing a healthier old age in general - it's a win-win situation.
The development of a quick, cheap, non-invasive test to detect Alzheimer's would be an important step in helping people to receive an early diagnosis, the head of science at Alzheimer's Research UK has said, after new research suggests that regular eye tests could help detection.
It is difficult to diagnose Alzheimer's disease accurately and, in many cases, by the time the symptoms have developed, damage has already been going on in the brain for a number of years.
It is too soon to determine whether these types of tests will be useful for diagnosis of dementia and we would need to see the results of larger trials before drawing any firmer conclusions.
Regular eye tests could "complement" existing procedures as an initial screen in diagnosing Alzheimer's, the Australian science agency the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has said. Shaun Frost, who led one of the studies, added:
If further research shows that our initial findings are correct, it could potentially be delivered as part of an individual's regular eye check-up.
The high resolution level of our images could also allow accurate monitoring of individual retinal plaques as a possible method to follow progression and response to therapy.