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Cocoa Extract Might Prevent Alzheimer's

Jun 24, 2014 04:51 PM EDT

Cocoa extract may prevent or reduce damage to nerve pathways found in patients with Alzheimer's disease, slowing the progression of often inevitable and debilitating cognitive decline.

According to a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, researchers have determined that lavado cocoa extract boasts particularly concentrated amounts of polyphenols - a type of antioxidant that could be linked to cognitive protection.

The researchers compared this extract to natural and Dutched cocoa extracts to see how they affected the neural pathways of model mice with Alzheimer's disease.

Not surprisingly, the lavado extract - which comes from minimally processed cocoa - was found to be the most beneficial in the rats, reducing damage to nerve pathways and slowing cognitive decline the most, compared to the other two extracts.

A close analysis of its effects showed researchers that it reduced formation of Aβ oligomers  - dangerous tangles along nerve pathways that disrupt synaptic communication and eventually result in neural damage.

"Our data suggest that lavado cocoa extract prevents the abnormal formation of Aβ into clumped oligomeric structures," lead investigator Giullo Maria Pasinetti said in a statement.

The researchers also learned that the polyphenols found in the lavado cocoa extract are likely responsible for extract's preventative properties.

"There have been some inconsistencies in medical literature regarding the potential benefit of cocoa polyphenols on cognitive function," said Pasinetti.

However, the fact that the Dutched cocoa extract did not result in any reduction in cognitive decline among the lab mice "strongly suggests that polyphenols are the active component that rescue synaptic transmission, since much of the polyphenol content is lost by the high alkalinity in the Dutching process." he added.

Pasinetti and his team concluded that because it is thought that the damage of Alzheimer's disease begins long before the first symptoms appear, it could be beneficial to develop an inexpensive preventative drug based on these findings.

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