A certain cocoa extract could help to stave off Alzheimer's long before any symptoms reveal themselves in individuals.
This is according to a new study undertaken at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, which found that Lavado could hamper amyloid-beta - commonly seen as a hallmark of cognitive decline - from forming into sticky clumps in the brain.
It is believed this build-up wreaks havoc with synapses - the gaps between nerve pathways - and hinders the mechanisms that help to maintain the health of memory circuits in the brain. Amyloid-beta also sets off immune inflammatory responses, which enables a flow of chemicals that actually damage cells as opposed to targeting hostile ones.
When there is no damage to the nerve pathways, electrical pulses are sent to the synapses and neurotransmitters are released. This enables the message to be passed on successfully.
This trial is thought to be the first of its kind to suggest this extract could be instrumental in preventing amyloid-beta from sticking together and having a detrimental effect on an individual's cognitive functions.
Lavado cocoa is made up of polyphenols, which are antioxidants that are also present in fruit and vegetables. Previous scientific trials have suggested they are effective in combating degenerative conditions.
Lead investigator Dr Giulio Maria Pasinetti said: "Our data suggests that Lavado cocoa extract prevents the abnormal formation of amyloid-beta into clumped oligomeric structures, to prevent synaptic insult and eventually cognitive decline.
"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."
If cocoa-based Lavado can be made into a dietary supplement, it could be a secure and fairly cheap way to help to fight Alzheimer's disease from the onset.
Furthermore, Dr Pasinetti suggested that aiming to rescue the synaptic function in treatments for the degenerative disorder could be an effective approach.
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