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Flavanols in cocoa may offer benefits to the brain

in the United Kingdom, found that the consumption of this cocoa resulted in regional changes in blood flow in study participants, suggesting that cocoa flavanols may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of vascular impairments within the brain itself.

Our study showed that acute consumption of this particular flavanol-rich cocoa beverage was associated with increased blood flow to grey matter for 2 to 3 hours, Macdonald said. This raises the possibility that certain food components like cocoa flavanols may be beneficial in increasing brain blood flow and enhancing brain function among older adults or for others in situations where they may be cognitively impaired, such as fatigue or sleep deprivation.

Norman K. Hollenberg, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Womens Hospital, presented new findings based on his ongoing work with the Kuna Indians of Panama, who are heavy consumers of cocoa. The indigenous population still living on the Islands near Panama consume a type of cocoa rich in flavanols on a daily basis and experience unusually low rates of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Hollenbergs latest findings, which are published this month in the International Journal of Medical Sciences, used death certificates to compare cause-specific deaths of island-dwelling Kuna to those who live on mainland Panama -- who do not drink the flavanol-rich cocoa that is so prominent on the islands.

Hollenberg and colleagues found the Kuna Indians living on the islands had significantly lower rates of heart disease and cancer compared to those on the mainland. The relative risk of death from heart disease on the Panama mainland was 1,280 percent higher than on the islands and death from cancer was 630 percent higher. In his AAAS presentation, Hollenberg suggested that the same mechanism resulting in improved blood vessel function that he and others have observed following consumption of Mars special cocoa could also be respons
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Contact: Lori Fromm
lfromm@webershandwick.com
312-988-2436
Weber Shandwick Worldwide
18-Feb-2007


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