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Cocoa extract may be a delicious way to help Alzheimer's patients

Harold Mandel's picture
Delicious chocolate

Alzheimer's disease is a devastating disease in which we witness a deterioration in cognitive functioning. Attempts to deal with this disorder often appear like a waste of time due to the tragic progressive nature of the illness. It therefore appears almost magical that something as tasty as cocoa extract may help with Alzheimer's. Recent research shows this may be true.

Polyphenol-rich diets lower the risk for Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is recognized as being the most common age-related neurodegenerative disorder reported the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. Pathologically this disorder is characterized by abnormal aggregates of amyloid peptide-β (Aβ) and tau protein in the brain. Orthodox therapies which are currently available mediate the symptoms of AD without modifying the progression of the disease. It has been reported that polyphenol-rich diets lower the risk for AD.

Cocoa is a rich source of flavanols

In this study researchers investigated the AD disease-modifying effects of cocoa. Cocoa is a rich source of flavanols, which are a type of polyphenols. The researchers hypothesized that cocoa extracts interfere with a process called amyloid-β oligomerization therefore preventing synaptic deficits. The researchers tested the effects of three different cocoa extracts on amyloid-β oligomerization, which were:

1: Natural

2: Dutched

3: Lavado extracts

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Cocoa extracts have multiple disease-modifying properties in AD

In order to assess the effects of cocoa extracts on synaptic function the researchers measured long term potentiation in mouse brain hippocampal slices which were exposed to oligomeric Aβ. The results indicated that cocoa extracts are effective in preventing the oligomerization of Aβ. Lavado extract was the most effective. It was concluded that cocoa extracts have multiple disease-modifying properties in dealing with AD and offer a promising route of therapeutic and/or preventative initiatives for this condition.

Lavado cocoa may lessen damage to nerve pathways which are seen in AD

It has been exciting for researchers to discover that cocoa extract may actually counter specific mechanisms of AD as reported on by Mount Sinai Hospital. It is hoped that these new insights into mechanisms which are behind cocoa’s benefit for AD may lead to new treatments or dietary regimens for this disorder. According to the study conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai a specific preparation of cocoa-extract which is called Lavado may lessen damage to nerve pathways which are seen in Alzheimer’s disease patients’ brains long before they actually develop symptoms of the disease.

Studies have suggested polyphenols prevent degenerative diseases of the brain

This study was done on mice which were genetically engineered to mimic Alzheimer’s disease. The results have suggested that Lavado cocoa extract prevents the protein β-amyloid- (Aβ) from gradually forming sticky clumps in the brain. These sticky clumps are known to damage nerve cells as Alzheimer’s disease develops. Lavado cocoa is primarily made up of polyphenols, which are antioxidants also found in fruits and vegetables. Past studies have suggested polyphenols prevent degenerative diseases of the brain.

Lead investigator Giulio Maria Pasinetti, MD, PhD says the data from this research suggests that Lavado cocoa extract prevents the abnormal formation of Aβ from developing into clumped oligomeric structures in the brain. This is conjectured to prevent synaptic insult and eventually cognitive decline. Pasinetti says in view of the fact that cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease appears to begin decades before symptoms appear, it is believed these results have broad implications for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Adequate quantities of specific cocoa polyphenols in the diet may benefit Alzheimer’s disease

The evidence in this study is the first to suggest that adequate quantities of specific cocoa polyphenols in the diet over the course of time may prevent the clumping together of Aβ into oligomers which damage the brain. This may serve as a means to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. In the study Lavado extract, which has the highest polyphenol content and anti-inflammatory activity among the three types of cocoa tested, was also found to be the most effective in both lessening formation of Aβ oligomers and reversing damage to synapses in the study mice. Due to the fact that loss of synaptic function may play a greater role in memory loss than the loss of nerve cells, the actual rescue of synaptic function may serve as a more reliable target for an effective AD drug.

It is really an exciting finding that cocoa may have the power to actually help prevent AD. It is reasonable to assume that turning cocoa-based Lavado into a dietary supplement may offer a safe, inexpensive and easily accessible means to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, even during its earliest, asymptomatic stages. Specific types of delicious high polyphenol cocoa may therefore actually offer a really tasty way to protect the brain from the ravages of AD.