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Cocoa offers more than antioxidants for Alzheimer's protection

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Cocoa could protect from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease at a cellular level

Scientists report cocoa in chocolate can protect the brain from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s’ in ways that were previously unknown. The health benefits to the brain come from more than antioxidants, found for the first time. Coca stops brain cells and from dying at a cellular and molecular level.

The new research shows antioxidants in the cocoa and chocolate offer health protection by activating important pathways at a cellular and molecular level.

The study that comes from the Sbarro Health Research Organization, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pa., Lombardi Cancer Center, Georgetown University and the University of L’Aquila in Italy finds cocoa activates a neuroprotective pathway that has a direct effect on preventing the death of neurons – brain cells that transmit information through electrical and chemical signals.

Specifically, polyphenols in cocoa activate the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) pathway that is crucial for keeping neurons and brain signaling intact.

The findings, published on Journal of Cellular Biochemistry suggest potential new ways to protect the aging brain as well as preventing progression of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

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Annamaria Cimini of the University of L’Aquila, lead author of the study said in a press release, the study shows cocoa is more than a “mere antioxidant” that could help protect from memory loss.

Other potential health benefits of cocoa include:

  • Colon cancer prevention
  • Preventing cirrhosis for people with liver disease
  • Promoting heart health
  • Boosting immunity
  • Relieving depression
  • Easing pain

The study is the first to show how cocoa works at a cellular level. The researchers say cocoa powder should be investigated further for preventing neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.

Journal of Cellular Biochemistry
“Cocoa powder triggers neuroprotective and preventive effects in a human Alzheimer's Disease
A. Cimini, et al.
DOI: 10.1002/jcb.24548
May, 2013

Chemistry Central Journal 2011, 5:5doi:10.1186/1752-153X-5-5
"Cacao seeds are a "Super Fruit": A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products"
Stephen J Crozier et al.
February, 2011

Corti R et al. Circulation 2009 Mar 17; 119(10): 1433-41
Monagas M et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition online doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.27716

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