ScienceDaily reported recently that researchers at Johns Hopkins may have found protective qualities contained in dark chocolate. In sum, the compound in chocolate might shield an affected brain following a stroke by multiplying signals produced by cells that naturally protect nerve cells.
The compound – known as “epicatechin” – occurs naturally in dark chocolate. In a recent study, scientists tested mice which were previously induced with a stroke. The mice that were given the compound epicatechin suffered far less damage to the brain, when compared to the test animals with no preventative treatment. The dose of the compound was reportedly modest, yet the results were significant.
The correlation to humans is the obvious next step for researchers. A particularly interesting note is that according to ScienceDaily, most treatments for humans who have suffered strokes must be administered within a narrow timeframe; two to three hours. Epicatechin, however, may be different. Researchers say that the compound seemed to limit neuronal damage in mice, when administered 3.5 hours following the stroke. This is promising in that if the compound can be eventually used to treat human stroke victims, the window for treatment and mitigation of brain damage might be expanded. It should be noted, though, that when administered six hours post-stroke, it was too late for the protective qualities of epicatechin to be noticed.
The mechanism of action by which epicatechin may be effective is explained by an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine – apparently, the compound “stimulates two previously well-established pathways known to shield nerve cells in the brain from damage.” (See Science Daily article here).