Due to the global increase in lifespan, the proportion of people showing cognitive impairment is expected to grow exponentially. As target-specific drugs capable of tackling dementia are lagging behind, the focus of preclinical and clinical research has recently shifted towards natural products. Curcumin, one of the best investigated botanical constituents in the biomedical literature, has been receiving increased interest due to its unique molecular structure, which targets inflammatory and antioxidant pathways. These pathways have been shown to be critical for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and more in general for cognitive decline. Despite the substantial preclinical literature on the potential biomedical effects of curcumin, its relatively low bioavailability, poor water solubility and rapid metabolism/excretion have hampered clinical trials, resulting in mixed and inconclusive findings. In this review, we highlight current knowledge on the potential effects of this natural compound on cognition. Furthermore, we focus on new strategies to overcome current limitations in its use and improve its efficacy, with attention also on gender-driven differences.
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