Harvard scientists show that Cocoa-Flavanols may have a powerful ability to protect from cancer and heart disease related deaths

February 14, 2006

Harvard scientists in conjunction with researchers from the University of Nottingham's Institute of clinical research have just finished a very interesting experiment examining the benefits of cocoa with the help of two populations of Kuna Indians. One group of Kuna's still lives on their ancestral home and drink large quantities of flavanol-rich Cocoa every day. The second group has migrated to a city and instead of drinking flavanol-rich Cocoa on a daily basis they drink a commercially processed cocoa that would therefore be much lower in Cocoa flavanols; these flavanols are lost during processing. The Kuna's who consumed the Cocoa-flavanol rich beverage had a much lower rate of dying from cancer and heart disease than the city dwelling Kuna's. The risk of dying from heart disease was 1,280% higher for the diet lacking the Cocoa-flavanols and the risk of death from cancer was 630% higher. When a Cocoa drink high in flavanols was used it was found that it relaxed blood vessel walls in the study participants. The research was presented at the "Theobroma Cocoa: the Tree of Change" symposium in Washington, DC, examining Cocoa sustainability.

Commentary by Jerry Hickey, R.Ph.

These drugs can accelerate heart rate, cause palpitations, lead to changes in blood pressure and pulse rate, cause angina and cardiac arrhythmias, increase anxiety, and agitation; it is not a stretch to consider that they may have serious consequences in isolated cases. Important Note: Parents should not discontinue the use of a drug without first consulting with the appropriate physician.

Natural plant extracts of Goji berry are well known for exhibiting anti-aging effects. These researchers tested their hypothesis that Goji berry would be protective against toxins involved with aging-related neurodegenerative diseases. Examples of these diseases are Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. In Alzheimer's disease for instance, a protein called beta-amyloid is believed to cause wholesale destruction of previously healthy brain tissue. Researchers exposed the brain tissue of animals to beta-amyloid protein. The beta-amyloid protein caused necrotic death of brain cells (necrosis refers to death of tissue due to disease). If the animal cells were first treated with Goji Berry extract they released significantly less LDH: LDH is released when cells are destroyed and this indicates a decrease in brain tissue damage. Goji Berry extract preventyed the release of cellular executioners usually triggered by beta-amyloid protein. Lithium Chloride is a drug used widely for bipolar depression. Lithium Chloride has well known protective effects in the brain such as preventing glutamate induced neurotoxicity. The effective dosage of Goji Berry was wider than that of Lithium Chloride. The study is published in the August-September issue of the journal Experimental Gerontology.