A study has revealed that individuals having advanced heart failure as well as diabetes type 2 exhibited improvements in mitochondrial structure following 3 months of consuming dark chocolate bars and epicatechin (a flavonoid present in dark chocolate) enriched cocoa.
The research studied 5 profoundly ill individuals having serious damage to skeletal muscle mitochondria, the components responsible for the majority of the energy generated in cells. Their “fuel cells” were dysfunctional on account of both diabetes type 2 and heart failure, resulting in abnormalities in skeletal muscle. In individuals having heart failure plus diabetes, abnormalities in both the heart and skeletal muscle lead to reduced functional capacity. These individuals frequently complain of lack of energy, shortness of breath, and have trouble walking short distances.
The individuals ate dark chocolate bars and drank a beverage having a total epicatechin content of about 100 mg daily for 3 months. Biopsies of skeletal muscle were performed pre and post treatment. Following the 3 month treatment, the scientists investigated differences in mitochondria volume as well as the abundance of cristae, which are interior areas of mitochondria which are required for effective function of the mitochondria, and can be measured by electron microscopy.
The cristae were seriously damaged and reduced in quantity in these individuals. Following 3 months, the individuals exhibited recovery after 3 months, the quantity of cristae were at normal levels, and increases in a number of molecular indicators part of new mitochondria production.
The outcomes, which resembled earlier research revealing improvement in skeletal and heart muscle function in animals following treatment with epicatechin, were encouraging enough to support a larger study.
The outcomes of this preliminary study have resulted in the implementation of larger, placebo-controlled clinical studies to assess if individuals with heart failure as well as diabetes show improvement in their exercise capacity when given epicatechin-rich cocoa.