A small clinical trial led by researchers at UC San Diego School of Medicine and VA San Diego Healthcare System (VASDHS) found that patients with advanced heart failure and type 2 diabetes showed improved mitochondrial structure after three months of treatment with epicatechin-enriched cocoa.
Epicatechin is a flavonoid found in dark chocolate.
The results of this initial study has led to the implementation of larger, placebo-controlled clinical trial at UC San Diego School of Medicine and VASDHS to assess if patients with heart failure and diabetes show improvement in their exercise capacity when treated with epicatechin-rich cocoa.
The study published this week by the journal Clinical and Translational Science looked at five profoundly ill patients with major damage to skeletal muscle mitochondria.
Mitochondria are structures responsible for most of the energy produced in cells. These ''fuel cells'' are dysfunctional as a result of both type 2 diabetes and heart failure, leading to abnormalities in skeletal muscle.
In patients with heart failure and diabetes abnormalities in both the heart and skeletal muscle result in impaired functional capacity. These patients often complain of shortness of breath, lack of energy and have difficulty walking even short distances.