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)