Cacao flavonoid (-)-epicatechin inhibits myostatin and strengthens muscles
Cacao contains (-)-epicatechin [structural formula to the right], a flavonoid that improves endurance performance in diabetes, animals studies have shown improves the results of condition training and – if the animals stop training – maintains the training results for longer. According to researchers at the Mexican Escuela Superior de Medicine del Instituto Politecnico Nacional, this same (-)-epicatechin might also be of interest to strength athletes: it inhibits myostatin, has an anabolic effect and boosts muscle strength. In humans.
The Mexicans' study, which was published in January 2014 in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, was partly funded by Cardero Therapeutics, a company that develops new treatments for metabolic disorders such as diabetes. Although this study also mentions the positive effects of (-)-epicatechin in diabetics, its focus is on whether (-)-epicatechin might also help against sarcopaenia – the loss of muscle strength and mass as a result of aging.
The Mexicans tried to answer the question by performing a combination of animal and human studies.
To start with they studied the muscle cells of people in their twenties and in their sixties, and observed that aging leads to an increase in the concentration of myostatin, a protein that inhibits muscle growth, and a decrease in the concentration of myostatin. Aging also reduces the concentration of the proteins MEF2A, Myf5, MyoD and myogenin, all of which are indicators of muscle growth.
The researchers then did an experiment with young mice [6 months old] and old mice [>2 years]. The researchers gave half of the mice 1 mg (-)-epicatechin per kg orally twice a day for two weeks, so the animals were given a total of 2 mg (-)-epicatechin per kg per day.
The figures below show that (-)-epicatechin had an anabolic effect in both young and old mice. The figures are self-explanatory.
The flavonoid that comes from cacao also functioned as a myostatin blocker.
The Mexicans then also did a small human study on 6 people in their forties and 6 in their seventies. The subjects were given two doses daily of 25 mg (-)-epicatechin for seven days. The subjects were light, and were given a total of 1 mg (-)-epicatechin per kg bodyweight per day. The researchers then looked at the effects that the supplement had on the subjects' ability to clench their fists strongly, and at the concentrations of myostatin and follistatin in their blood.
No graphs of the results were published in the article. "Treatment for 7 days with (-)-epicatechin yielded a bilateral increase in hand strength of 7%, which was accompanied by a significant increase (49.2%) in the ratio of plasma follistatin/myostatin levels", the researchers write.
That (-)-epicatechin is starting to look extremely interesting. Now it's a question of waiting for a supplements manufacturer to launch something in a sensible dosage.
J Nutr Biochem. 2014 Jan;25(1):91-4.
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