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GREEN TEA EPICATECHIN REDUCE HEART DAMAGE & CHF
Epicatechin is a member of a group of dietary antioxidants known as flavonoids. Epicatechin is found in a variety of plant-based foods, but is particularly abundant in green tea and dark chocolate.
Regular readers of this column are already familiar with previous research studies suggesting that green tea flavonoids, including epicatechin, have been linked to a potential decrease in the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as decreased blood pressure in patients with high blood pressure (hypertension). Now, an innovative new laboratory research study has suggested that daily epicatechin supplements may dramatically reduce heart damage, and the risk of congestive heart failure (CHF), following heart attacks (myocardial infarction).
In this study, which appears in the current issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, laboratory rats underwent surgical blockage of their main coronary artery, which reproduces the acute blockage of human coronary arteries that cause heart attacks (myocardial infarctions). In one group of rats, daily oral supplements of epicatechin (1 mg/kg per day) were started prior to tying off the rats’ coronary arteries, and were continued after coronary artery ligation. In a second group of “control” rats, daily water supplements (without epicatechin) were started 10 days prior to coronary artery ligation. Yet another “control group” of rats underwent “sham surgery,” wherein the chest wall was surgically opened (as with the other two groups of rats), but the coronary arteries were not tied off. In this group of rats, daily epicatechin supplements were also started 10 days before their sham operations were performed.
When the hearts of these laboratory animals were evaluated 48 hours after their surgically induced heart attacks, the animals that had received daily epicatechin supplements (before and after coronary artery ligation) were found to have 52 percent less permanently damaged heart muscle (myocardial infarction) when compared to the animals that received only daily “placebo” water supplements. Moreover, these “control” animals, that underwent coronary artery ligation but did not receive epicatechin supplements, were observed to develop signs of CHF, as was expected, following the surgical induction of a massive heart attack. Amazingly, the animals that were pretreated with epicatechin prior to surgical ligation of the main coronary artery did not display evidence of CHF (these animals’ heart function did not significantly differ from that of the “sham surgery” rats that did not have their coronary arteries tied off)!
At 3 weeks after coronary artery ligation, the rats that had received epicatechin supplements, in addition to coronary artery ligation, had, on average, a 33 percent decrease in the extent of dead heart muscle (myocardial infarction) when compared to the “placebo control” animals that received only water supplements (but no epicatechin) before and after coronary artery ligation. Once again, there was a significant incidence of CHF in the rats that received only water supplements, in addition to coronary artery ligation, 3 weeks after surgical induction of myocardial infarction, while the animals that received epicatechin supplements in addition to coronary artery ligation retained normal heart function (similar to what was observed in the “sham surgery” rats that did not have their coronary arteries ligated).
This is quite an amazing research study, as the protective effects of daily epicatechin supplementation following ligation of the main coronary artery in rats was profoundly significant, and essentially prevented the onset of CHF in these laboratory animals. If epicatechin was to be shown to have similar “cardio-protective” effects in humans, then this would enormously increase the potential role of epicatechin, and other related green tea and dark chocolate flavonoids, in the prevention and treatment of coronary artery disease!Fortunately, there are several clinical research studies that are evaluating the potential cardio-protective effects of epicatechins, and other green tea and dark chocolate flavonoids, in patients with elevated cholesterol, diabetes, and other conditions that are associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack. (At least one other study is also evaluating these same dietary flavonoids in patients who already have CHF.)
Meanwhile, green tea is well tolerated by most people, and if there are no preexisting medical illnesses that prevent you from drinking green tea, then a few cups or glasses of green tea a day may help to decrease your risk of heart attack and CHF. (As always, however, I must remind readers that laboratory experiments with rats and mice often do not translate to human beings once the same treatments are evaluated in high-quality prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical research trials with human volunteers.)
To learn more about the role of green tea, dark chocolate, epicatechin, and other dietary flavonoids in the prevention of cancer, look for the publication of my new landmark book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” in the summer of this year.
Disclaimer: As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity
Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, a professor of surgery, a cancer researcher, an oncology consultant, and a widely published author
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