With another week of organic chemistry lab behind me, I head to Goldie’s for my reward—a chocolate bar. It’s an indulgence, never associated strictly with “health foods” like carrots or hummus or anything, but believe me, it is a necessary part of my diet.
So you can imagine my delight when I discovered this article through Popular Science about how chocolate might just be good for you in its own right:
Scientists at UC San Diego School of Medicine have recently completed a small clinical trial where patients with advanced heart failure and type II diabetes were treated with cocoa enriched with the flavonoid epicatechin. Essentially, the patients in the trial were eating dark chocolate for three months.
The five patients chosen all started with advanced skeletal muscle mitochondria damage—the little powerhouses of the cell that make energy from glucose. Our muscle cells are packed with these mitochondria, but during heart failure, they begin to atrophy. Patients experience difficulty walking short distances, difficulty breathing, and a lack of energy. But after three months of consuming 100mg of epicatechin in the form of a dark chocolate bar per day, the patients’ mitochondria numbers showed marked improvement, and were even up to normal levels.
Dark chocolate contains high amounts of this flavonoid, epicatechin, which has previously been shown to increase blood flow and generally improve cardiac health. It is an antioxidant as well, fighting off the free radicals that cause our bodies to break down and age, and has been shown in vitro to have twice the antioxidant potential as red wine, another famous (healthy?) indulgence.
A larger study is currently being conducting at UC San Diego, which will add a placebo drug to ensure that the effects of epicatechin are repeatable. Frankly, I wouldn’t find it hard to believe either way—mandatory daily chocolate always makes me feel better. If chocolate can help us live longer and function better with the diseases of old age, I’ll take that bag of M&Ms, thank you very much.
Anna Autilio is a student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at email@example.com . The Missing Link: Weird Science appears on appears on Fridays.