The Benefits of Chocolate


By Quirine Eijkenboom


Love chocolate? Good news! Researchers continue to discover more and more benefits of the compound epicatechin found in cacao. This compound has repeatedly been shown to have many health benefits and is also able to combat certain diseases. For example, a recent study suggested that epicatechin could prevent and treat diabetes ( by strengthening the mitochondria of the beta cells that release insulin. 

A team of scientists at UC San Diego discovered that epicatechin has profound effects on the health and long-term survivability of mitochondria (Nogueira, Ramirez-Sanchez et al. 2011).  Mitochondria, known as the powerhouse of the cell, are essential for producing cellular energy in the form of ATP.

The researchers at UC San Diego carried out their study by feeding mice with (-)-epicatechin (found in dark chocolate) for 15 days accompanied by exercise on the treadmill. Compared to mice fed with only water, the (-)-epicatechin-fed mice demonstrated better exercise performance supported by: (1) an increased number of capillaries in the hindlimb muscle and (2) a higher amount of muscle mitochondria, as well as increased signaling for mitochondrial biogenesis (Nogueira, Ramirez-Sanchez et al. 2011). These findings thus indicate that (-)-epicatechin increases the capacity for muscle aerobic metabolism and promotes a later onset of fatigue.

Even though the mechanism by which epicatechin improved the mouse muscle response is not entirely clear yet, researchers believe that it is due to the presence of epicatechin-specific receptors in muscle cells. When epticatechin binds to these receptors it “induces an integrated response that includes structural and metabolic changes in skeletal and cardiac muscle, resulting in greater endurance capacity” (Nogueira, Ramirez-Sanchez et al. 2011). 

Certainly, mice are not people, but these results appear to be quite promising and translatable to humans as well. In fact, it seems that epicatechin also provides many benefits for NGLY1 patients, who suffer from low muscle strength, quick onset of fatigue and mitochondrial dysfunction. Official studies are yet to be carried out, but NGLY1 parents have reported some very positive and encouraging results after regularly giving their children CocoaVia supplements made by Mars Inc.. In fact, one child with NGLY1 immediately showed improvement in physical and cognitive abilities shortly after receiving CocoaVia. She was more steady while reaching for and grabbing objects and seemed to have less ataxia.  Also, she appeared to be more focused on a particular task and less distracted. Without knowing that she had added CocoaVia to her diet, many of her teachers and therapists commented on her improvements as well.

Currently, a promising, but young pharmaceutical company called Cardero is working on developing a more purified form of epicatechin. Until this purified form is approved and more scientific studies have been carried out, CocoaVia appears to be a great option for NGLY1 patients to extract potential benefits.

Individuals should not rely on this information as a substitute for consultations with qualified health care professionals. Grace Science Foundation strongly recommends that care and treatment decisions related to NGLY1 and any other medical condition be made in consultation with a patient’s physician or other qualified health care professionals who are familiar with the individual’s specific health situation. We are not offering medical advice and a doctor should be consulted before taking CocoaVia or any other supplement.




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