Cocoa may enhance skeletal muscle function

A small clinical trial led by researchers at UC San Diego School of Medicine and VA San Diego Healthcare System (VASDHS) found that patients with advanced heart failure and type 2 diabetes showed improved mitochondrial structure after three months of treatment with epicatechin-enriched cocoa. Epicatechin is a flavonoid found in dark chocolate.

The results of this initial study has led to the implementation of larger, placebo-controlled clinical trial at UC San Diego School of Medicine and VASDHS to assess if patients with and diabetes show improvement in their when treated with epicatechin-rich cocoa.

The study published this week by the journal Clinical and Translational Science looked at five profoundly ill patients with major damage to skeletal muscle mitochondria. Mitochondria are structures responsible for most of the energy produced in cells. These "fuel cells" are dysfunctional as a result of both and heart failure, leading to abnormalities in skeletal muscle. In patients with heart failure and diabetes abnormalities in both the heart and skeletal muscle result in impaired functional capacity. These patients often complain of shortness of breath, lack of energy and have difficulty walking even short distances.

The trial participants consumed bars and a beverage with a total epicatechin content of approximately 100 mg per day for three months. Biopsies of skeletal muscle were conducted before and after treatment. After the three-month treatment, the researchers looked at changes in mitochondria volume and the abundance of cristae, which are internal compartments of mitochondria that are necessary for efficient function of the mitochondria, and measurable by .

"The cristae had been severely damaged and decreased in quantity in these patients," said one of the senior investigators, Francisco J. Villarreal, MD, PhD of UC San Diego's Department of Medicine's Division of Cardiology. "After three months, we saw recovery – cristae numbers back toward normal levels, and increases in several molecular indicators involved in new mitochondria production."

The results, which mimicked earlier studies showing improvement in skeletal and heart muscle function in animal models after treatment with epicatechin, were promising enough to prompt the larger study.

The principal investigator of this trial was Pam R. Taub, MD, assistant professor of medicine at UC San Diego and the VA San Diego Healthcare System. Taub will be leading the new clinical trial at UC San Diego that will enroll normal sedentary subjects as well as /diabetes who will be treated with placebo, or epicatechin-rich chocolate.

More information: Patients who would like more information about the clinical trial can call (858) 552-8585, extension 3866.

Related Stories

Cocoa 'vitamin' health benefits could outshine penicillin

Mar 12, 2007

The health benefits of epicatechin, a compound found in cocoa, are so striking that it may rival penicillin and anaesthesia in terms of importance to public health, reports Marina Murphy in Chemistry & Industry, the magazi ...

Recommended for you

Are human breast milk microbiome 'neutral'?

4 seconds ago

Human breast milk is considered the most ideal source of nutrition for infants and it should have played a critical role in the evolution and civilizations of human beings. Unlike our intuitive perception, human milk contains ...

Many nurses unprepared to meet dying patients

2 hours ago

Most nurses in their work care for patients who are dying. A study of more than 200 students has shown that many nurses in training feel unprepared and anxious when faced with the prospect of meeting patients during end-of-life ...

Spinach extract decreases cravings, aids weight loss

2 hours ago

A spinach extract containing green leaf membranes called thylakoids decreases hedonic hunger with up to 95% - and increases weight loss with 43%. This has been shown in a recently published long-term human study at Lund University ...

User comments