July 20, 2009 -- The compound that gives curry spice powder its yellowish color may protect arteries from fatty buildup, new research in mice shows.
Curcumin, the main ingredient in the curry spice turmeric, is a naturally occurring antioxidant known as a polyphenol. Polyphenols are found in plants that have anti-inflammatory and other protective properties.
Previous studies in rats showed that curcumin had the power to prevent heart failure. Turmeric-based compounds have also been touted as potential treatments for Alzheimer's, arthritis, and breast cancer.
Researchers in France fed 20 mice a diet supplemented with curcumin or a comparison diet not supplemented with curcumin. After 16 weeks, mice fed on the curcumin-based diet had a 26% reduction in fatty deposits in their arteries compared to mice on the comparison diet.
In addition, curcumin appeared to alter the genetic signaling involved in plaque buildup at the molecular level.
The findings are being presented this week at the American Heart Association's Basic Cardiovascular Sciences Annual Conference in Las Vegas.