Dark Chocolate Protects Against Stroke-Induced Brain Injury

May 9, 2010 | Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

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 Dark Chocolate Protects Against Stroke-Induced Brain Injury
Dark chocolate contains protective antioxidant properties. However, these features are lost in the refining process. A recent study of mice pretreated with dark chocolate1 prior to experimentally-induced stroke showed that they suffered less brain damage. Even mice given chocolate only after the stroke had far less damage.

The higher level of protection was due to the antioxidant polyphenol catechins in the chocolate. These catechins appeared to work through activation of the enzyme heme oxygenase 1, which traps free iron following a stroke and thus reduces the free radical damage that typically occurs.

Scientists have been intrigued by the potential health benefits of epicatechin by studying the Kuna Indians, a remote population living on islands off the coast of Panama. The islands’ residents had a low incidence of cardiovascular disease. Scientists who studied them found nothing striking in the genes and realized that when they moved away from Kuna, they were no longer protected from heart problems. Researchers soon discovered the reason was likely environmental: The residents of Kuna regularly drank a very bitter cocoa drink, with a consistency like molasses, instead of coffee or soda. The drink was high in the compound epicatechin, which is a flavanol, a flavanoid-related compound.

Referenced Studies

  1. ^ Dark Chocolate Helps Protect Against Stroke Damage  Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism  1.Zahoor A Shah, Rung-chi Li, Abdullah S Ahmad, Thomas W Kensler, Masayuki Yamamoto, Shyam Biswal and Sylvain Dor.
  2. ^ Green Tea Catechins Helps Prevent Onset of Stroke  Med Sci Monit.  Ikeda M, Suzuki C, Umegaki K, Saito K, Tabuchi M, Tomita T.
  3. ^ Green Tea Catechins Reduce Stroke Damage  Med Sci Monit.   Suzuki M, Tabuchi M, Ikeda M, Umegaki K, Tomita T.

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