Cocoa Extract for Treating and Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease
Further work has been published on the potential health benefits of cocoa extract, this time in protecting the brain from Alzheimer’s disease.
A team led by Dr. Giulio Pasinetti of The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, USA, investigated the current state of research on the effects of polyphenols, contained in cocoa extract. Polyphenols are micronutrients that may have a role to play in reducing age-related cognitive dysfunction.
The team reviewed several studies that demonstrate this effect in experiments on animals, and believe it may be due to polyphenols inhibiting the dangerous build-up of toxic proteins such as beta-amyloid and tau proteins.
“Bioactive polyphenols, in particular flavanols, which are highly represented in cocoa extracts, may beneficially influence cognitive deterioration, such as in Alzheimer’s disease, while promoting healthy brain aging,” they write in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
If the benefits of polyphenols for humans are confirmed, this effect could “play a pivotal role in preventing the loss of synapses that are critical for functional connection among neurons,” says the team. This may “provide a viable and important strategy for preserving cognitive function and, thereby, protecting against the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” they add.
The experts state that, despite the promises of cocoa polyphenols for treating or preventing Alzheimer’s disease, “there is a need for multidisciplinary collaborative efforts involving cocoa producers, wholesalers, and the biomedical community if we want to succeed in the development of cocoa extract for health benefits.”
The global supply of cocoa is diminishing, they warn, and cocoa extract processing suffers from a lack of consistency so polyphenol content can vary widely. This should be carefully addressed before recommendations can be made.
They conclude that the current research suggests “there is strong scientific evidence supporting the growing interest in developing cocoa extract, and potentially certain dietary chocolate preparations, as a natural source to maintain and promote brain health, and in particular to prevent age-related neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of age-related dementia affecting an estimated 44 million people worldwide.”