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Cocoa-Extract May Reduce Damage To Nerve Pathways In Alzheimer's Disease Patients' Brains

Posted:  Monday, June 30, 2014

A specific preparation of cocoa-extract called Lavado may reduce damage to nerve pathways seen in Alzheimer's disease patients' brains long before they develop symptoms, according to a study conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount

Lavado cocoa is primarily composed of polyphenols, antioxidants also found in fruits and vegetables, with past studies suggesting that they prevent degenerative diseases of the brain.

The research team, led by Dr. Giulio Maria Pasinetti, a professor of neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine, found that a cocoa extract called Lavado may reduce or block damage to nerve pathways found in patients with Alzheimer's disease. This means that symptoms of the condition such as cognitive decline could be prevented.

According to the investigators, Lavado cocoa extract is a minimally processed cocoa that is high in polyphenols - antioxidants that are also found in fruits and vegetables. Past research has indicated that polyphenol-rich diets may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer's disease 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 Alzheimer’s without modifying the progression of the disease. It has been reported that polyphenol-rich diets lower the risk for Alzheimer’s.

To reach their findings, the team genetically engineered mice to mimic the human form of Alzheimer's disease.

Each of the three cocoa extracts were tested on the mice, and the Lavado cocoa extract was found to be the most effective against Alzheimer's. It reduced the formation of Aβ oligomers in the brains of the mice and reduced damage to synapses.

The team explains that Aβ oligomers are groups of molecules that clump together and disturb synaptic structures in the brain that are responsible for the function of memory circuits.

The disease-causing formation of Aβ oligomers - groups of molecules loosely attracted to each other -build up around synapses. The theory is that these sticky clumps physically interfere with synaptic structures and disrupt mechanisms that maintain memory circuits' fitness. In addition, Aβ triggers immune inflammatory responses, like an infection, bringing an on a rush of chemicals and cells meant to destroy invaders but that damage our own cells instead.

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.

It is really an exciting finding that cocoa may have the power to actually help prevent Alzheimer’s. 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 stages.