March 5, 2012

Cocoa could improve ability to exercise


After 3 months of treatment with epicatechin-enriched cocoa, people with heart failure and  type 2 diabetes were shown to have improved mitochondrial structure. This was based on results from a mouse study that showed the flavenoid, found in dark chocolate, was able to improve the mitochondrial structure within skeletal muscle.

Within the muscle are little powerhouses, called mitochondria, that are important  for your athletic ability. As the mitochondria are more developed – your athletic ability may develop, as well. So why did researchers think epicatechin-enriched cocoa might help improve exercise capacity?

Participants were asked to consume dark chocolate and beverages that provided a daily intake of epicatechin-enriched coca of 100 mg. Measurements (biopsies) of skeletal muscle were taken before and after the 3 month study. The participants showed an increase of muscular mitochondria volume after the daily indulgence.

The small study has prompted researchers to hypothesize that epicatechin-enriched cocoa may improve exercise capacity in a person with diminished mitochondrial structure  The more mitochondria you have, the more energy you can generate during exercise. Sadly, type 2 diabetes and heart failure impair the body from developing mitochondria to the fullest potential.

A large-scale, placebo-controlled study is currently being developed. The new clinical trial is being held at UC San Diego. It will enroll normal sedentary subjects as well as patients with heart failure and diabetes who will be treated with placebo, or epicatechin-rich chocolate.

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