Flavonoids: Epicatechin

Epicatechin represents one of the antioxidants from the flavan-3-ol or flavonoids family. In the public health system, the importance of this compound is compared to the one of penicillin. Epicatechin is found in several popular foods, and it is known to play a very important role in the treatment of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Health Benefits of Epicatechin

Since cardiovascular diseases affect a great number of people from all over the world, finding foods that protect the heart and the circulatory system is among the main objectives of researchers. Epicatechin is found in several such foods, so its role in the prevention or the treatment of cardiovascular diseases cannot be denied.

Besides that, Epicatechin also seems to have a beneficial effect on hypertension and diabetes. For example, people who consume dark chocolate, a food rich in Epicatechin, have an improved glucose metabolism, as well as lowered blood pressure. The sensitivity and the resistance to insulin are improved, while the systolic blood pressure drops. However, these effects are not observed when consuming white chocolate, as this one does not contain cocoa, and therefore it includes no Epicatechin.

Hypertension and insulin sensitivity depend on the production of nitric-oxide, which is directly controlled by Epicatechin and other flavanols. Despite this obvious connection, it is unknown how Epicatechin influences the biological system in order to rise nitric-oxide bioavailability. There are three possible mechanisms, which involve:

  • Insulin-mediated cell signaling
  • Oxidant-mediated cell signaling
  • Renin-angiotensin system

The first mechanism is based on the fact that insulin modifies signaling molecules that are implicated in the regulation of nitric-oxide. The second one refers to the way flavanols reduce oxidative stress, a process that leads to a greater availability of nitric-oxide. The latter mechanism implies the inhibition of an enzyme that converts angiotensin. Nitric-oxide production increases in this case because the induction of Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide Phosphate Hydrogen-oxidase activity is prevented.

A diet rich in Epicatechin leads to functional and structural modifications in the dentate gyrus. This section of the brain plays an important role in the development of memory and learning. This compound is also known to increase the blood flow in the brain, fact that may help in the prevention of cognitive disorders and neurodegenerative diseases.

Reliable Sources of Epicatechin

Green tea and the cocoa plant represent the main sources of epicatechin. As a consequence, all the foods related to these two products will contain epicatechin to some extent. However, you need to keep in mind that not all types of chocolate contain the same amount of epicatechin. This amount depends on how much flavanols the cocoa plant contains, as well as on the processes used for manufacturing the chocolate. Presuming that 100 g of dark chocolate contains 500 mg of polyphenol, there is also a notable amount of flavanols that ranges between 100 and 200 mg. Such an amount is sufficient for observing the health benefits mentioned above.  

Grapes and grapefruits are also known to contain high amounts of flavanols. In consequence, wine and grapefruit juice are also recommended for people who suffer from any of the aforementioned health conditions.

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