May 06, 2010
Chocolate Compound Good Against Strokes?

Time for another post about the burden of healthy eating. You ought to eat chocolate in case you have a stroke. The chemical epicatechin in chocolate provides protection.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have discovered that a compound in dark chocolate may protect the brain after a stroke by increasing cellular signals already known to shield nerve cells from damage.

Ninety minutes after feeding mice a single modest dose of epicatechin, a compound found naturally in dark chocolate, the scientists induced an ischemic stroke by essentially cutting off blood supply to the animals' brains. They found that the animals that had preventively ingested the epicatechin suffered significantly less brain damage than the ones that had not been given the compound.

Do not go too many hours without eating chocolate.

While most treatments against stroke in humans have to be given within a two- to three-hour time window to be effective, epicatechin appeared to limit further neuronal damage when given to mice 3.5 hours after a stroke. Given six hours after a stroke, however, the compound offered no protection to brain cells.

In many chocolates the epicatechin is destroyed by processing.

"The epicatechin found in dark chocolate is extremely sensitive to changes in heat and light" he says. "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."

I've read that Mars retains more flavonoids in their Dove dark chocolate. I haven't found a good web source comparing flavonoids in different chocolates.

It is possible to mix that chocolate in with other foods high in epicatechin. Apples have 8 mg of epicatechin per 100 grams (3 and a half ounces) as do black grapes and raspberries. Blackberries have 18 mg. Broadbeans and cherries are also good sources. Most of the berries and cherries are good sources (so eat dark chocolate with cherry inside). But dark chocolate has 5 times as much as apples and grapes per 100 grams. Tea is a good source, especially green tea.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 May 06 10:22 PM  Aging Diet Brain Studies

Mthson said at May 6, 2010 10:46 PM:

Does anybody have a favorite brand of sugarless / no sugar added dark chocolate to recommend?

Maybe some sugarless brands replace the sugar with unhealthy chemicals...

If we got brands with high sugar, I'd feel like we were counteracting some of the health benefits.

TheBigHenry said at May 7, 2010 7:43 AM:

Russell Stover brand "sugar free" dark chocolate candy bar is sweetened with Splenda brand sugar alcohol. It's delicious.

Lou Pagnucco said at May 7, 2010 9:15 AM:


According to INRA Phenol-Explorer, cocoa powder is the best source (about 158mg epicatechin / 100g cocoa)

I do recall, though, that some cocoa/chocolate contain high amounts of lead.

"Lead Contamination in Cocoa and Cocoa Products: Isotopic Evidence of Global Contamination"

Randall Parker said at May 8, 2010 10:25 AM:

Lou, Great research paper on lead in cocoa. I read the whole thing. So the lead is getting in after the bean is fully grown. It is happening at multiple steps, probably mostly while in Nigeria and tetra-ethyl lead in Nigerian gasoline is a major candidate source.

Sounds like a solvable problem if only our government and those of other Western countries were to demand of the chocolate industry lower lead levels in food. For example, the beans could be sealed in containers early after harvest or transported out of Nigeria quickly.

I'm going to start taking daily B-1 to cut body lead levels.

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