I have good news for all you green tea drinkers and chocolate lovers! Your palate cravings could keep your heart and brain healthy!
Recent studies, reported in the vital choice newsletter, confirms that green tea and dark chocolate provide protective affects against damage from strokes and promote heart health. In one study, the flavonol antioxidant, epicatechin, was found to be protective in mice with induced brain ischemia (lack of blood supply) vs. mice who had not received the treatment. It seems that this important flavonol protects nerve cells from damage from cellular stress. The researchers found that the optimal timing for dosing was less than 3 hours after the stroke. Epidemiological studies further confirmed a link between chocolate consumption and decreased risk of stroke.
The following excerpt from the article explains the effect:
Lead author Sylvain Doré, Ph.D., says that epicatechin stimulates two previously well-established pathways known to shield nerve cells in the brain from damage.
When the stroke hits, the brain is ready to protect itself because these pathways – called Nrf2 and heme oxygenase 1 – are activated.
As further proof that these are the pathways thought which it protects brain cells, epicatechin had no significant protective effect in mice that lacked them.
Eventually, Doré said, his research could lead to insights into limiting acute stroke damage and possibly protecting against chronic neurological degenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related cognitive disorders.
And Doré says the amount of epicatechin needed could be quite small, because the suspected beneficial mechanism is indirect:
“Epicatechin itself may not be shielding brain cells from free radical damage directly, but instead, epicatechin, and its metabolites, may be prompting the cells to defend themselves.” (AAN 2010)
Now, don’t take this blog to be an excuse for a free for all with hershey kisses and dove bars.
Not all dark chocolates are created equally, cautioned Dr. Dore:
“The epicatechin found in dark chocolate is extremely sensitive to changes in heat and light. In the process of making chocolate, you have to make sure you don’t destroy it. Only few chocolates have the active ingredient. The fact that it says ‘dark chocolate’ is not sufficient.” (AAN 2010)
Manfacturing processes called, Dutching”, destroys most of cocoa’s epicatechin … The article states,
Dark chocolate – defined as containing 60 percent or more cocoa solids – has twice the antioxidant capacity of milk chocolate.
And dark chocolate made from non-Dutched cocoa has more than twice the antioxidant capacity of dark chocolate made from Dutched cocoa.
Straight to the Research:
Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism advance online publication 5 May 2010; doi: 10.1038/jcbfm.2010.53