12 January - 20 June 2016

Cocoa polyphenols may offer protection against neurodegenerative diseases

24 April 13

New research claims regularly eating cocoa flavanols could protect people from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.  The study by Cimini et al. published in the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry found that cocoa polyphenols trigger neuroprotective activity.  Previous studies have touted cocoa’s rich antioxidant and brain-boosting properties.  Recent studies have supported the ability of chocolate compounds called flavanols to protect neuron cells against degeneration and dementia.  The new research confirms the antioxidant properties of polyphenols, the larger class of compounds that includes flavanols, and establishes how they work to protect the brain on a cellular level.  The researchers extracted phenols from commercial cocoa powder and examined their effect on cell cultures.  The in vitro study enabled the team to confirm the antioxidant properties of cocoa, but more compellingly demonstrated that cocoa polyphenols active the BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor) survival pathway, which could help guard against Alzheimer’s.  Since the experiments were only conducted on isolated human cells, it is unclear how much cocoa powder is necessary or sufficient to gain the BDNF-boosting neuroprotective effects.  Cimini did not know if cocoa could be beneficial for people with disease, but since it contains antioxidant properties and it is also a pleasure to eat or drink chocolate, it should be used.  She added that the levels of polyphenols can vary among different kinds of cocoa, but commercial powder highly enriched with polyphenols already exists.

RSSL’S Functional Ingredients Laboratory has a validated ORAC method which can be used to test the antioxidant capacity of foods.  For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

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