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J Nutr. 2011 Jun;141(6):1095-100. doi: 10.3945/jn.110.134270. Epub 2011 Apr 27.

Dietary epicatechin promotes survival of obese diabetic mice and Drosophila melanogaster.

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Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA.


The lifespan of diabetic patients is 7-8 y shorter than that of the general population because of hyperglycemia-induced vascular complications and damage to other organs such as the liver and skeletal muscle. Here, we investigated the effects of epicatechin, one of the major flavonoids in cocoa, on health-promoting effects in obese diabetic (db/db) mice (0.25% in drinking water for 15 wk) and Drosophila melanogaster (0.01-8 mmol/L in diet). Dietary intake of epicatechin promoted survival in the diabetic mice (50% mortality in diabetic control group vs. 8.4% in epicatechin group after 15 wk of treatment), whereas blood pressure, blood glucose, food intake, and body weight gain were not significantly altered. Pathological analysis showed that epicatechin administration reduced the degeneration of aortic vessels and blunted fat deposition and hydropic degeneration in the liver caused by diabetes. Epicatechin treatment caused changes in diabetic mice that are associated with a healthier and longer lifespan, including improved skeletal muscle stress output, reduced systematic inflammation markers and serum LDL cholesterol, increased hepatic antioxidant glutathione concentration and total superoxide dismutase activity, decreased circulating insulin-like growth factor-1 (from 303 ± 21 mg/L in the diabetic control group to 189 ± 21 mg/L in the epicatechin-treated group), and improved AMP-activated protein kinase-α activity in the liver and skeletal muscle. Consistently, epicatechin (0.1-8 mmol/L) also promoted survival and increased mean lifespan of Drosophila. Therefore, epicatechin may be a novel food-derived, antiaging compound.

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