Medical Research: What is the background for this study?
Dr. Taub: Epidemiological studies indicate that the consumption of modest amounts of dark chocolate (DC), which contains the natural cacao flavanol (-)-epicatechin (Epi,) is associated with reductions in the incidence of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). The health benefits of dark chocolate have been attributed to Epi. Clinical studies using cocoa and/or DC in normal volunteers or subjects with CVD have reported improvements in peripheral and coronary vascular endothelial function, blood pressure, lipids, insulin resistance, and inflammatory markers. The mechanism underlying these improvements is thought to be due to increased nitric oxide levels and improved endothelial function. We have also shown that capacity of Epi to favorable impact mitochondria under normal and disease states.
We previously conducted pilot study in five patients with heart failure and type II diabetes, and showed that in skeletal muscle (SkM) biopsies there is a severe reduction in mitochondrial volume and cristae, as well as, in structural/functional proteins. After treatment with Epi rich dark chocolate , there was a significant recovery of SkM mitochondrial cristae, structural/functional proteins (e.g. mitofilin), as well as in regulators of mitochondrial biogenesis. However, no studies have examined the capacity of Epi rich dark chocolate to enhance exercise capacity in normal subjects and assess its impact on mitochondrial and oxidative control systems.
Medical Research: What are the main findings?
Dr. Taub: Seventeen subjects were randomized to placebo (n=8) or DC groups (n=9) and consumed 2 squares of chocolate (20 g, provided by Hershey) for 3 months.
We showed in the chocolate group subjects had improved levels of HDL cholesterol and enhanced exercise capacity that is linked to the stimulation of SkM metabolic control endpoints which enhance mitochondrial function.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Taub: Consumption of small amounts (2 small squares) of dark chocolate can improve parameters of exercise capacity and metabolic parameters such as HDL cholesterol in healthy sedentary individuals.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Taub: Based on the results of this research would conduct future studies in individuals with sarcopenia (defined as age-associated loss of skeletal muscle mass and function). I am currently conducting a study to assess effects of Epi on patients with statin related decreases in exercise capacity.
University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA, University of Southern Califorinia, Los Angeles, CA, USA
MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Pam R. Taub, MD, FAC (2015). Dark Chocolate May Improve Exercise Capacity and Metabolic Parameters