Cocoa May Help Thwart Neurodegeneration

L’Aquila, Italy—A study recently published by the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry revealed that regular consumption of cocoa polyphenols could help to maintain brain health and even offer neuroprotection against age-related cognitive degeneration.

To come to this conclusion, a team lead by Annamaria Cimini of the University of L’Aquila used in vitro methods to examine how the phenols in commercial cocoa powder reacted at a cellular level. Aside from proving that cocoa has antioxidant properties, the study indicated that the polyphenols in cocoa activate the brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF, a protein that controls neuron development, function and existence) survival pathway in Abeta plaque-treated cells and Abeta oligomers-treated cells. This process essentially prohibited simulated neurodegeneration from taking effect; such degeneration is often found in Alzheimer’s disease patients.

While the researchers have not discovered a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, the data are important and further research into cocoa’s potential in the brain health category is warranted.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, July 2013 (online 5/30/13)