~ Cocoa Flavonols Increase Blood Flow to Brain

Medinews.com, 08-11-05

Molecules called flavonols found in cocoa and dark chocolate have demonstrated to be not only healthy for the heart but may also influence blood flow to the brain, according to a new study.

This study may have implications for the ability to treat strokes, diabetes, and vascular dementia, and the data could soon be available to pharmaceutical companies for development into new medications, according to researchers.

Prof. Ian MacDonald, professor of physiology at the University of Nottingham (UK), reported that he and coworkers have discovered that cocoa flavonols could increase blood flow to major areas of the brain. In a study of 16 healthy young women, the scientists studied the brainīs activation during cognitive tasks using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

"The mounting scientific evidence on cocoa flavonols is extraordinary," said Dr. Norm Hollenberg, professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA, USA), and one of the first scientists to discover the potential health benefits of cocoa flavonols. "This is a scientific breakthrough that could well lead to a medical breakthrough."

Furthermore, researchers at Mars, Inc. (Mount Olive, NJ, USA), a leading candy manufacturer, have found that entire "libraries" of cocoa flavanols can be manufactured, and that new flavanols can be developed from natural flavonols, enhancing their viability for use in pharmaceutical medications. The research was discussed among international researchers at a meeting sponsored by Mars, which has conducted cocoa studies for more than 15 years. The meeting was held in July 2005 in Lucerne (Switzerland).

Prof. MacDonald reported that further studies should evaluate whether flavonols could help individuals who are tired or for people with mild cognitive problems. This increase in blood flow could result from a vascular effect, according to Prof. MacDonald.

In the Nottingham study, the participants consumed the flavonol-rich CocoaVia drink, produced by Mars, once a day for five days before the start of the study. The drink contains 150 mg of flavonols. Earlier studies demonstrated that cocoa flavonols appear to increase nitric oxide synthesis by the blood vessels, thereby increasing blood flow.

At the meeting, investigators at the University Hospital (Zurich, Switzerland) and Harvard Medical School also reported that similar increases in blood flow can be achieved among individuals with diabetes. This suggests that cocoa flavonols could help in treating acute vascular complications associated with long-term diabetes.

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