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Cocoa Extract May Help Treat Alzheimer's

Rachel Tepper Paley
June 24, 2014

Photo credit: StockFood

Let’s not beat around the bush: Dark chocolate is awesome. We love it in bar form. In dreamy, dark chocolate waffles. Even paired with a salty slice of Parmesan.

But perhaps your taste buds are trying to tell you something. A recent study published in the “Journal of Alzheimer’s Research" suggests that a cocoa extract called "lavado" may protect you from Alzheimer’s disease.

Here’s the science breakdown: In the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s, a protein called beta-amyloid accumulates in the gaps that exist between nerve cells, which disrupts the flow of signals between them and eventually leads to memory problems and worse.

But relying upon mice genetically-engineered to mimic Alzheimer’s, researchers found that lavado actually prevented the abnormal build-up of beta-amyloid.

"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," said the study’s lead investigator, Dr. Giulio Maria Pasinetti, in a press release.

The lavado extract is mostly composed of a type of antioxidant called “polyphenols,” which are also found in fruits and vegetables—and may also protect you from a wealth of other things, from tumors to inflammation.

Lavado supplements may soon be available to consumers, Pasinetti told us, but in the meantime he encouraged people to eat dark chocolate to get their daily dose of cocoa polyphenols.

Well, if dark chocolate is “doctor’s orders,” we suggest the 72-percent cacao bar accented with fleur de sel from Mast Brothers, the Belgium-inspired BRU bar flecked with cacao nibs from Éclat, or the woodsy, aromatic Noir de Cacao bar from Michel Cluizel.

If only all medical advice was so delicious.