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Cocoa Compounds Boost Brain Health

Posted May 12 2013 10:11pm

A number of previous studies suggest that the antioxidant compounds – notably flavanols – present in cocoa may exert a protective effect on cells in the brain.   A. Cimini, from the University of L’Aquila (Italy), and colleagues investigated the cellular mechanism for this effect by extracting phenols from commercial cocoa powder and examined their effects on cell cultures.  The team confirmed the antioxidant properties of cocoa, and more importantly demonstrated that cocoa polyphenols activate the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BNDF) survival pathway. This observation suggests that cocoa flavanols may modulate oxidative stress that is implicated in Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.  The study authors conclude that: “On the light of the results obtained the use of cocoa powder as preventive agent for neurodegeneration is further supported.”

A. Cimini, R. Gentile, B. D'Angelo, E. Benedetti, L. Cristiano, ML Avantaggiati, A. Giordano, C. Ferri, GB Desideri.  “Cocoa powder triggers neuroprotective and preventive effects in a human Alzheimer's Disease model by modulating BDNF signaling pathway.” Journal of Cellular Biochemistry, 28 March 2013.

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Tip #161 - Benefits of Green Tea
Green tea is made from the Camellia sinesis plant, where the leaves and stems are not aged and undergo very little processing. Containing less caffeine than black tea, green tea is most noted for an antioxidant compound known as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which has been shown to inhibit an anti-apoptotic protein involved In some types of cancer. Green tea may have a future interventive role in combating a number of diseases:

• Heart Disease: Researchers from Athens Medical School (Greece) studied 14 healthy men and women (average age 30 years) and found that regular consumption of green tea improved the function of the heart’s endothelial cells (cells lining the walls of blood vessels). Specifically, green tea consumed on three occasions at a dose of 6 grams, increased the flow-mediated dilation (FMD), a measure of the blood vessel’s ability to relax, by 3.9% within 30 minutes after consumption of the beverage.

• High Blood Pressure & Elevated Cholesterol: University of Florida (USA) researchers studied 52 healthy men and 72 healthy women, ages 21 to 70 years, assigning them to receive daily one of three green tea extract nutritional supplements, or placebo. After 3 weeks, those subjects who received the green tea supplements experienced reduced blood pressure [5 mmHg (systole) and 4 mmHg (diastole)], reduced total cholesterol [10 mg/dL], and reduced LDL (low-density, “bad”) cholesterol [9 mg/dL]. Further, after 3 months of supplementation with green tea extract, study subjects had a 12% lower oxidative stress marker as well as a 42% reduction in a chronic inflammation marker.

• Breast Cancer: A team from Vanderbilt School of Medicine (Tennessee, USA) studied 3,454 women with breast cancer, ages 20 to 74 years, and a comparable control group of 3,474 similarly aged women. All of the women were individually interviewed and their habits in drinking green tea were assessed. The team found that regular consumption of green tea was associated with a 12% reduction in the risk of breast cancer. In addition, premenopausal women reaped increased benefits relative to the number of years they had been regular green tea drinkers.

• Weight Loss: A team from Provident Clinical Research (Indiana, USA) assessed 107 subjects in a 12-week long study. Each study participant received either a green tea beverage containing 625 mg of catechins with 39 mg caffeine or a control beverage (39 mg caffeine, no catechins). During the study period, the subjects each completed 180 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week...

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