The Journal of Nutrition recently published an intriguing article about a flavonoid called Epicatechin. Epicatechin is a compound that occurs naturally in cocoa and tea. The article is the result of a study conducted by researchers at Virginia Tech who found that Epicatechin increased the lifespan of Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) and of obese, diabetic mice.

The abstract of the study is here:

In their introduction to the article, the researchers note that the life expectancy of human diabetics is 7.5 to 8.2 years less than that of nondiabetics, and that premature death is usually due to complications from the disease. For their study, five-week-old diabetic mice were divided to receive regular drinking water or water containing 0.25 percent Epicatechin (providing approximately 150 milligrams Epicatechin per kilogram body weight) for 15 weeks. A group of lean mice served as controls.

At the end of the study, half of the untreated diabetic mice had died, compared with 8.4 percent of those that received Epicatechin. The researchers also found that Epicatechin was associated with a reduction in aortic vessel and liver degeneration, as well as less liver fat deposition compared to untreated animals. The mice who received Epicatechin also experienced decreases in LDL (bad) cholesterol, insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and markers of inflammation, and increases in skeletal muscle function and liver antioxidant glutathione and superoxide dismutase (one of the body's antioxidants) activity, all of which are associated with a healthier and longer life span.

In another experiment, the researchers gave fruit flies diets that provided varying concentrations of Epicatechin or no Epicatechin for up to 72 days. Flies that received the three highest concentrations of Epicatechin exhibited a significant increase in mean life span.
The upshot? According to the researchers, more studies need to be done to better understand the precise mechanism behind Epicatechin’s life-extending properties. Stay tuned!

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