Curcumin, a spice that is common in Indian curries and other Asian dishes, might extend the lifespan of humans because it is full of anti-oxidants and other good chemicals, a new study reveals.
In a study on fruit flies, researchers at the University of California in Irvine found that the spice keeps the insects alive 20 percent longer than normal, improves their mobility, and prevents tumors in them.
"Preliminary results from laboratory studies suggest the spice has anti-inflamatory, anticancer and antioxidant properties," said lead researcher Mahtab Jafari, an associate pharmacuetic sciences professor.
Curcumin is an ingredient in turmeric, a golden spice that is a staple in Asian cuisine, and used in many American kitchens for its peppery flavor as well. The spice has been used as folk medicine for centuries, and is eaten in Asia to treat upset stomachs, arthritis pain, cuts and bruises.
Jafari said her work with fruit flies may be directly relevant to how tumeric affects people, because flies and humans "share many genes and aging pathways" and the spice affected age- associated genes in the flies.
The study demonstrates a potential use of curcumin treatments for mammals, she wrote in the October issue of the academic journal "Rejuvenation Research."
But she cautioned that her work cannot be directly extrapolated to humans.
The National Institutes of Health is also funding basic research on the potential role of curcumin in preventing acute respiratory distress syndrome, liver cancer and postmenopausal osteoporosis, according to Jafari.