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Epicatechin is a flavonol that is found in certain plants, such as grapes, tea, and cocoa. Research has indicated that consuming products containing high levels of epicatechin may provide many health benefits. Specifically, it is thought to reduce the likelihood of many common diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Other research has shown that it is linked to relieving symptoms caused by those same diseases. Some scientists believe epicatechin can help improve memory as well.
Since research has found associations between consuming epicatechins and good health, it is important to know where these flavonols can be found. They are highest in such consumables as green tea, chocolate, and wine. They may also be found in grape juice and hot cocoa, and in smaller amounts in other forms of tea, such as black tea.
The benefits of epicatechin were initially discovered when a scientist noticed that the Kuna people of Panama had only about a ten percent occurrence of the diseases that are quite prevalent in Western society, specifically heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Upon further research, it was discovered that this group of people consumed large amounts, nearly 40 cups (about 9.4 liters), of cocoa per week. As a result, further research was conducted to find if there was a correlation between the consumption of epicatechin-rich foods and health.
In one study, laboratory rats underwent a form of heart surgery called coronary artery ligation. Some of the animals consumed supplements containing epicatechin while others did not. The researchers found that those that consumed the supplements had less damage to the heart and had fewer occurrences of congestive heart failure than their non-supplemented counterparts. In addition, reduced amounts of fat deposits and reduced degeneration of the arteries were found in the animals consuming epicatechins.
Researchers are increasingly finding flavonols, such as epicatechin, to be valuable antioxidants. One study showed how consuming foods high in epicatechins may be beneficial to preventing a variety of cancers, such as skin cancer. In the case of skin cancer, they are thought to absorb the cancer-causing ultraviolet rays, reducing the damage to the skin.
In another laboratory study, mice with diabetes had a 50 percent death rate. When they were supplemented with epicatechins, the mortality rate improved in only a few months time to 8.4 percent. The flavonol has also been linked to improved memory function. Scientists have found that this is particularly true when the consumption of epicatechins is done in conjunction with exercise. Consequently, it is thought to reduce the effects of aging on memory and learning. It may even help people affected by Alzheimer's disease.