This Antioxidant Reduces Heart Disease Mortality by 40 Percent

Epicatechin is a beneficial flavonol found in foods such as berries, apples, dark chocolate, ginger, and grape seeds.

by Mae Chan

It appears to stand head and shoulders above the rest for its health and performance boosting properties.

Data from the Zutphen Elderly Study collected over 25 years indicated that those with the highest average intakes of epicatechin had almost a 40 percent lower risk of dying from coronary heart disease (CHD) than those with the lowest average intakes.

Scientists from Wageningen University also report that epicatechin intake was also significantly associated with a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD) in men suffering from CVD.

“To our knowledge, this is the first prospective cohort study to examine specifically the association between dietary epicatechin intake and CVD mortality,” wrote the researchers in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Biochemists classify epicatechins as flavanols, which are plant pigments with medicinal properties. Flavanols are a subfamily of flavonoids, which are polyphenols that fall under the broader category of phenolic compounds.

The health benefits of epicatechin are so striking that it may rival penicillin in terms of importance to public health. Norman Hollenberg, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said epicatechin is so important that it should be considered a vitamin.

Hollenberg has spent years studying the benefits of cocoa drinking on the Kuna people in Panama. He found that the risk of 4 of the 5 most common killer diseases: stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes, is reduced to less then 10% in the Kuna.

They can drink up to 40 cups of cocoa a week. Natural cocoa has high levels of epicatechin.

If these observations predict the future, then we can say without blushing that they are among the most important observations in the history of medicine and could potentially get rid of 4 of the 5 most common diseases in the western world.

Epicatechins provide benefits such as:

  • increased blood flow and nitric oxide levels,
  • better insulin sensitivity,
  • lower cholesterol levels (due to antioxidant activity),
  • improved blood pressure,
  • more elastic skin,
  • and it even has potential anabolic (muscle-building) properties, with possible myostatin-inhibiting abilities!

Epicatechins can be found in the following foods:

Tea a Major Dietary Source

The Zutphen Elderly Study started in 1985 and included 774 older men. Epicatechin intake was estimated four times over 15 years, and then correlated with cardiovascular disease over 25 years.

Tea was the major dietary source of epicatechin, followed by apples and cocoa, said the researchers.

Results showed that he mean intake of epicatechin was 15.2 mg per day. Participants were divided into three groups (tertiles) based on average epicatechin intakes.

The highest average intake was 21.9 mg per day, the middle group was 14.7 mg per day, and the lowest average intake was 7.9 mg per day.

Over 25 years of study, 329 deaths from CVD were recorded, with an additional 148 dying from CHD and 72 from stroke.

Crunching the numbers indicated that men with the highest average intakes had a significantly lower risk of CHD mortality than men in the lowest tertile.

Commenting on the potential mechanism(s) of action, the researchers note that epicatechin has been shown to influence endothelial function by improving blood flow via increased bioavailability of the vasodilator nitric oxide (NO).

There may also be an effect of epicatechin on insulin resistance, they said.

“Our findings suggest that higher epicatechin intake is associated with lower risk of long-term CHD mortality in a population-based study of elderly men as well as with CVD mortality in men with prevalent CVD,” wrote the researchers.