Dark chocolate may guard against brain injury from stroke

Posted by on May 6th, 2010 and filed under Health/Medicine, International. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Washington, May 6 (IANS) A compound in dark chocolate is likely to protect the brain after a stroke by increasing cellular signals already known to shield nerve cells from damage.

Scientists found that a single modest dose of epicatechin, a compound found naturally in dark chocolate, helps in less brain damage in mice induced with ischemic stroke.

While most treatments against stroke in humans have to be given within a two to three-hour time window to be effective, epicatechin appeared to limit further neuronal damage when given to mice 3.5 hours after a stroke.

Given six hours after a stroke, however, the compound offered no protection to brain cells.

Sylvain Dore, associate professor of anaesthesiology and critical care medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says his study suggests that epicatechin stimulates two previously well-established pathways known to shield nerve cells in the brain from damage.

When the stroke hits, the brain is ready to protect itself because these pathways are activated.

In mice that selectively lacked activity in those pathways, the study found that epicatechin had no significant protective effect and their brain cells died after a stroke.

Eventually, Dore says, he hopes his research into these pathways could lead to insights into limiting acute stroke damage and possibly protecting against chronic neurological degenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related cognitive disorders.

The amount of dark chocolate people would need to consume to benefit from its protective effects remains unclear, since Dore has not studied it in clinical trials.

People shouldn’t take this research as a free pass to go out and consume large amounts of chocolate, which is high in calories and fat. Not all dark chocolates are created equally, he cautions. Some have more bioactive epicatechin than others, says a Johns Hopkins release.

The study now appears online in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism.

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