Dementia affects about 850,000 people in the UK, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.
Neurodegenerative conditions tend to cause memory loss in some patients.
But, curcumin – which gives curry its bright colour – could be used boost memory, and even show mild improvements in mood, the scientists said.
The spice, which is found in turmeric, improved memory by 28 per cent after just 18 months.
“Exactly how curcumin exerts its effects is not certain, but it may be due to its ability to reduce brain inflammation, which has been linked to both Alzheimer’s disease and major depression,” said first author of the US study, Dr Gary Small.
“These results suggest that taking this relatively safe form of curcumin could provide meaningful cognitive benefits over the years.”
The researchers compared curcumin supplements’ effect on 40 adults, all aged between 50 and 90, who had mild memory complaints.
Half were given a dummy pill, with no therapeutic effect at all, and half were given 90mg of curcumin twice a day.
After 18 months, all of the adults underwent memory tests and brain scans.
People taking curcumin supplements experienced significant improvements in their memory, according to the scientists.
The spice had previously been shown to reduce inflammation in studies.
Alzheimer’s disease is less prevalent in India, where people eat more curcumin than other parts of the world.
Memory loss could be completely normal, but if it’s affecting your day-to-day life, you should see a GP, said the NHS.
Other signs of dementia include struggling to follow a conversation, or finding it difficult to carry out daily tasks.
There’s currently no cure for dementia, but some lifestyle changes could help to slow the disease’s progress.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly could help to reduce symptoms.