Researchers at John; Hopkins have discovered that a compound in dark chocolate may protect the brain idler a stroke by increasing cellular signals already known to shield nerve cells from damage.
Ninety minutes after feeding mice a single modest dose of epicatechin (a compound found naturally in dark chocolate), the scientists induced an ischemic stroke by essentially cutting blood supply to the animal brains. They found that the animal suffered significantly less brain damage than the ones that had not been given the compound.
While most treatments against stroke in humans have to be given within a 2-3 hours time Window to be effective; epicatechin appeared to limit further neuronal, damage when given to mice 3.5 hours after a stroke. Given six hours after a stroke, however, the compound offered no protection to brain cells.
Sylvain Dore, Ph.D., associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine and: pharmacology and molecular sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says his study suggests that epicatechin stimulates two previously well-established pathways known to shield nerve cells in the brain from damage. When the stroke hits, the brain is ready to protect itself because these pathways – Nrf2 and home oxygenase 1 — are activated.
The study now appears online in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and
Eventually, Dore says, he hopes his research into these pathways could lead to insights into limiting acute stroke damage and possibly protecting against chronic neurological degenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related cognitive disorders.