Oakland, CA (September 29, 2005) -- A new study conducted by researchers atChildren's Hospital & Research Center Oakland is the first to discoverthat a chemical in cocoa beans can limit the development of fluids thatcause diarrhea. Cocoa beans contain a large amount of chemicals calledflavonoids. Scientists believe that these flavonoids can be used tocreate natural supplements to ease diarrhea symptoms. Dark chocolatecontains high concentrations of cocoa and may offer mild relief.
The study, published in the October issue of The Journal of Nutrition,found that cocoa flavonoids can bind to and inhibit a protein in theintestines called CFTR, which regulates fluid secretion in the smallintestines. The research was done in collaboration with scientists atHeinrich Heine University in Germany. "Our study presents the firstevidence that fluid loss by the intestine can be prevented by cocoaflavonoids," said Horst Fischer, Ph.D., Associate Scientist, Children'sHospital Oakland Research Institute and co-author of the study."Ultimately, this discovery could lead to the development of naturaltreatments that are inexpensive, easy to access and are unlikely to haveside effects."
Each year, Americans record an average of 2.4 million visits to theirdoctor with symptoms of diarrhea. Children younger than the age of fiveand the elderly are the most likely to develop grave health problems iftheir condition leads to dehydration. "Patients with diarrhea can losedangerous amounts of fluids," said Beate Illek, Ph.D., AssociateScientist, Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute and co-authorof the study. In severe cases children or elderly patients with diarrheacan die from dehydration within a few days.
History shows that the use of cocoa to treat diarrhea dates back to the16th century by ancient South American and European cultures. Until now,no one knew exactly why the cocoa bean appeared to be a remedy. "Ourresearch successfully proves that this ancient myth is really based onscientific principals," said Dr. Illek. For more than a year, scientiststested cocoa extract and flavonoids in cell cultures that mimic thelining of the intestine. All of the cultures reported lower fluidlevels. Consequently, the tests confirmed that cocoa flavonoids are apossible remedy for diarrhea.
About Children's Hospital & Research Center at Oakland
Children's Hospital & Research Center at Oakland is a designatedLevel I pediatric trauma center and the largest pediatric critical carefacility in the region. The hospital has 170 licensed beds and 166hospital-based physicians in 30 specialties, two thousand employees,and an operating budget of $200 million. With more than 300 basic andclinic investigators and an annual budget of over $43 million, theresearch institute has made significant progress in areas includingpediatric obesity, cancers, sickle cell disease, AIDS/HIV, hemophiliaand cystic fibrosis.
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