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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Possible Beneficial Effect of Flavanols on Memory


Dear Readers,

Previous research has shown that changes in a specific part of the brain, the hippocampus, are associated with age-related memory decline. Until now, however, the evidence in humans showed only a correlational link, not a causal one. To see if the hippocampus is the source of age-related memory decline in humans, researchers tested whether compounds called cocoa flavanols can improve the function of this brain region and improve memory. Flavanols extracted from cocoa beans had previously been found to improve neuronal connections in the brains of mice.

In the latest study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, 37 healthy volunteers, ages 50 to 69, were randomized to receive either a high-flavanol diet (900 mg of flavanols a day) or a low-flavanol diet (10 mg of flavanols a day) for three months. Brain imaging and memory tests were administered to each participant before and after the study. The brain imaging measured blood volume in the hippocampus, a measure of metabolism, and the memory test involved a 20-minute pattern-recognition exercise designed to evaluate a type of memory controlled by the hippocampus. Participants on high-dose flavonols showed improvements both on imaging and in memory performance.

Certainly larger and longer studies are needed to better understand the role of flavanols as potential therapies, but this was a well controlled study that should serve as motivation to conduct larger scale studies on dietary compounds that may reduce the risk for developing dementia by keeping the hippocampus healthy.



Thanks for reading,


Michael Rafii, MD, PhD
Director, Memory Disorders Clinic
Medical Core Director
Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study
University of California San Diego
 
Author: Michael Rafii MD,PhD at 9:04 AM 0 Comments

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The Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS) was formed in 1991 as a cooperative agreement between the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the University of California, San Diego. The ADCS is a major initiative for Alzheimer's disease (AD) clinical studies in the Federal government, addressing treatments for both cognitive and behavioral symptoms. This is part of the NIA Division of Neuroscience's effort to facilitate the discovery, development and testing of new drugs for the treatment of AD and also is part of the Alzheimer's Disease Prevention Initiative.

The ADCS was developed in response to a perceived need to advance research in the development of drugs that might be useful for treating patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD), particularly drugs that might not be developed by industry.