With Easter just around the corner new research suggests:
Chocolate is as good for you as exercise.
Scientists have found that small amounts of dark chocolate may improve health in a similar way to exercise.
Research has been focused on the mitochondria, the tiny powerhouses in cells that generate energy, and discovered that a plant compound found in chocolate, called epicatechin, (a strong antioxidant which has insulin mimic action and improves heart health) appeared to stimulate the same muscle response as vigorous activity.
A study on mice conducted in the United States by Dr Moh Malek from Wayne State University said.
”Mitochondria produce energy which is used by the cells in the body. More mitochondria mean more energy is produced the more work can be performed.
”Aerobic exercise, such as running or cycling, is known to increase the number of mitochondria in muscle cells. Our study has found that epicatechin seems to bring about the same response – particularly in the heart and skeletal muscles.”
A specific type of epicatechin from cocoa was given to mice twice a day for 15 days.
At the same time, these mice underwent 30 minutes of treadmill training each day.
Researchers found that mice only fed epicatechin had the same exercise performance as those running on the treadmill.
It is hoped that this research will lead to better ways of combating age-related muscle wasting.
”The number of mitochondria decreases in skeletal muscle as we age, and this affects us physically in terms of both muscle energy production and endurance,” said Dr Malek. ”Applying what we know about epicatechin’s ability to boost mitochondria numbers may provide an approach to reduce the effects of muscle ageing.”
Middle-aged mice who both exercised and ate epicatechin showed an even greater benefits.
”It appears epicatechin treatment combined with exercised could be a viable means to offset muscle ageing,” said Dr Malek.
He added: ”At the moment it would be a leap of faith to say the same effects would be seen in humans. But it is something we hope to identify in future studies.”
So the next time you are on the way to the gym or about to set off on that five mile hike just remember “Chocolate is as good for you as exercise”.