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Int J Clin Exp Med. 2008;1(2):181-91. Epub 2008 Apr 15.

Flavanols, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer's dementia.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a dementing neurological disorder that results in progressive memory loss and cognitive decline thought to be associated with buildup of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. Vascular Dementia (VaD) is another common dementing disorder characterized by decreased brain perfusion. Together, AD and VaD constitute mixed dementia, an extremely common type of dementia associated with aging. Neuroimaging research suggests that brain vascular atrophy results in mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a possible precursor for AD. Additionally, literature suggests that attention to cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension could reduce or delay the incidence of mixed dementia. Furthermore, foods and beverages rich in natural antioxidant flavanoids (i.e. epicatechin and catechin) are currently being advocated as possible preventative agents for a number of pathological conditions ranging from coronary heart disease to dementia. Experimental evidence is mounting that oxidative stress is involved in the pathophysiology of AD, and numerous studies are indicating that polyphenolic antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables can be useful in countering this and blocking neuronal death. More specifically, several cocoa studies suggest that daily intake of cocoa flavanols leads to cardiovascular benefits including vasodilatation via a nitric oxide mechanism and increased brain perfusion. The following text will consider an important question that thus arises regarding the potential of flavanols as effective agents for the prevention and delay of the onset of brain vascular atrophy and subsequently MCI and AD. It will also review the molecular mechanisms through which flavanols operate to accomplish their protective effects.


Alzheimer's disease; Brain vascular atrophy; antioxidants; flavanols; mild cognitive impairment; oxidative stress


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