2.10. Cocoa Flavonoids and Brain Health: Physiological and Molecular Mechanisms Underpinning Their Beneficial EffectsVauzour, D.
Accumulating evidence suggests that diet and lifestyle can play an important role in delaying the onset or halting the progression of age-related health disorders and in improving cognitive function.
A growing number of dietary intervention studies in humans and animals, and in particular those using cocoa flavonoids, have been proposed to exert a multiplicity of neuroprotective actions within the brain, including the potential to protect neurons against injury induced by neurotoxins, the ability to suppress neuroinflammation and the potential to promote memory, learning, and cognitive functions.
These effects appear to be underpinned by two common processes. First, they are capable of interactions with critical protein and lipid kinase signaling cascades in the brain, leading to an inhibition of apoptosis triggered by neurotoxic species and to a promotion of neuronal survival and synaptic plasticity. Second, they induce beneficial effects on the vascular system, leading to changes in cerebrovascular blood flow capable of causing enhanced vascularization and neurogenesis, two events important in the maintenance of cognitive performances.
Together, these processes act to maintain brain homeostasis and play important roles in neuronal stress adaptation and thus cocoa flavonoids might have the potential to prevent the progression of neurodegenerative pathologies.