Participants who took a high- cocoa- flavanol drink for three months performed better in memory tests. Intake of the special cocoa - drink also boosted function of the dentate gyrus, a brain region that plays a huge role in memory formation.lolay/Flickr

Cocoa extract may help prevent Alzheimer's disease, researchers reveal. Interestingly, the lavado cocoa extract achieved this by protecting nerve pathways against damages caused by toxic proteins.

The degenerative disease that leads to the destruction of memory and other important brain functions has long been directly linked to accumulation of cellular waste products including toxic proteins called beta-amyloid in the brain.

Development of the protein plaques and tangles in the brain and loss of synaptic function (synapses are the space between neurons), damage and kill brain cells; destroy memory and affect other important functions of the brain, including thinking, communication and behaviour.

During the study, researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at the Mount Sinai Hospital in US genetically engineered mice to mimic Alzheimer's disease. Dr Giulio Maria Pasinetti and colleagues analysed effects of different cocoa extracts including natural, dutched and lavado on reducing formation of the Aβ oligomers- the group of molecules that glue together to form tangles- and improving the synaptic function.

Results showed that the lavado cocoa extract, rich with antioxidants and high in polyphenols, when taken through diet, reduced formation of Aβ oligomers and reversed the synapses damages in the animals.

"Our data suggest that Lavado cocoa extract prevents the abnormal formation of Aβ into clumped oligomeric structures, to prevent synaptic insult and eventually cognitive decline," lead investigator of the study Dr Giulio Maria Pasinetti, Professor of Neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said in a news release.

"Given that cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease is thought to start decades before symptoms appear, we believe our results have broad implications for the prevention of Alzheimer's disease and dementia."

The high content of polyphenols in the lavado cocoa extract may be helping in this occurrence; researchers said. They expected that the discovery can help in the development of new drugs for preventing the brain disease.

"There have been some inconsistencies in medical literature regarding the potential benefit of cocoa polyphenols on cognitive function," Dr. Pasinetti, said. "Our finding of protection against synaptic deficits by Lavado cocoa extract, but not Dutched cocoa extract, 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."

Findings of the study have been reported in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease (JAD).

Cocoa contains many nutrients including calcium, copper, sodium, zinc and magnesium- making it one of the healthiest choices in the whole world. Following are some research-proven benefits of cocoa:

  • Protects heart against deadly diseases
  • Helps improve mood and prevents depression
  • Treats diarrhoea
  • Manages high blood pressure