Having a curry once or twice a week could stave off Alzheimer's disease, it has been claimed.
Curcumin, an ingredient in turmeric, which is used widely in Indian cuisine, is believed to prevent changes in the brain by blocking the spread of amyloid plaques - toxic protein deposits thought to play a key role in Alzheimer's.
Members of the Royal College of Psychiatrists were told at their annual meeting in Liverpool that laboratory and animal studies have already produced strong evidence that curry combats dementia.
A clinical trial is now under way in California to test the effects of curcumin on a group of Alzheimer's patients.
Indian-born American expert Professor Murali Doraiswamy said: "You can modify a mouse so that at about 12 months its brain is riddled with plaques. If you feed it a curcumin-rich diet it dissolves these plaques. The same diet prevented younger mice from forming new plaques.
"The next step is to test curcumin on human amyloid plaque formation using newer brain scans and there are plans for that."
Prof Doraiswarmy said rates of Alzheimer's are known to be low in Asian communities with turmeric-rich diets. One study in Singapore showed that regular curry eaters were at least half as likely to develop the disease as people who avoided curry.
Curries from southern India are richest in the spice, with it mostly found in Indian dishes with a "gravy" - not necessarily the hottest ones - including chicken and lamb tikkas.
"If you're not a fan of curry you can try putting mustard on your food," said Prof Doraiswamy. "I'm not a big fan of supplements in general but if they're from a responsible store then that might be another way to go."
He continued: "Studies looking at populations show that people who eat a curry meal two or three times a week seem to have a lower risk for dementia.
"Those studies seem to show that you need only consume what is part of the normal diet - but the research studies are testing higher doses to see if they can maximise the effect. It would be equivalent of going on a curry spree for a week."
Curcumin's effects are not well understood but it is believed to reduce inflammation - an immune reaction thought to play a key role in Alzheimer's - in a number of different ways, he said. It is thought to inhibit an enzyme called cox-2 which is also the target of anti-inflammatory drugs.
Prof Doraiswarmy added: "It is considered one of the three or four essential spices that are good for longevity. I eat curry at least three or four times a week and even when I make western dishes I often use curry spices to flavour them."