Curcumin, the active ingredient found in Indian spice turmeric, is being investigated as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease, it has been announced.
A study will examine if chemicals taken from the ingredient in curry has an effect on the parts of the brain affected by Alzheimer's disease.
Curcumin, which is a powerful antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties, has been used in Indian traditional medicine for thousands of years.
The research, which has been funded by the Alzheimer's Society, will investigate if the substance can counteract the abnormal effects of the protein, tau, in the brain, reports the Telegraph.
In Alzheimer's patients the protein twists filaments in the brain causing tangles which disrupt the cells' ability to communicate with each other and the nerve cells eventually die.
A team at the University of Southampton will use fruit flies, genetically modified to have nerve cells that contain malfunctioning tau proteins.
Dr Susanne Sorensen, Head of Research at the Alzheimer's Society said: "Unless we act now, one million people will develop dementia in the next 10 years. Alzheimer's is a devastating disease that robs people of their lives.
"A cheap, accessible and safe treatment could transform the quality of life of thousands of people with the disease. With the right investment, dementia can be defeated."
Dr Amrit Mudher, lead researcher from University of Southampton, said: "Dementia is drastically underfunded and there are so many avenues of Alzheimer's research being left unexplored. There is also no commercial gain in exploring existing drugs developed for other conditions, which is why it is so important that Alzheimer's Society, as a charity, is able to fund this project.
"Indian communities that regularly eat curcumin have a surprisingly low incidence of Alzheimer's, but we do not know why. Part of our research will investigate how curcumin may help protect the brain and prevent the disease."