The Relationship Between Epicatechin & Flavanols
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Epicatechin, cocoa flavanols, and the flavonoid family tree
Have you been hearing about cocoa products touting flavanols and (-)- epicatechin (pronounced as “minus epicatechin”) and wondering what all the buzz is about? Take a deeper dive into those big words, and you’ll find some pretty big proven health benefits. In short, cocoa beans contain a mixture of flavanols that support heart, brain, and total body health. (-)- Epicatechin is one of those flavanols which can be most abundant in certain types of cocoa. Researchers have spent decades studying cocoa flavanols, including (-)-epicatechin, and the positive impact they have on health.
What Are Flavonoids?
Before we start talking about flavanols and (-)-epicatechin, we first need to mention flavonoids. Flavonoids are a large group of naturally-occurring plant compounds found in many fruits and vegetables that we consume every day. While not essential nutrients, research is showing that dietary flavonoids may offer a range of benefits to human health. There are several subclasses of flavonoids and each class offers distinct health benefits. In the context of cocoa, flavanols are among the most abundant subclass of flavonoids found in this food.
What Are Flavanols?
In case you didn’t already know, flavanols are a subclass of the flavonoid family tree, and are most abundant in foods and beverages such as cocoa, tea, grapes, blueberries, and apples..
Remember those cocoa beans? They contain a distinct mixture of flavanols, collectively referred to as “cocoa flavanols.” A significant body of published research shows that consuming cocoa flavanols can help improve your blood flow by increasing the amounts of nitric oxide in your body. Better blood flow can give your brainpower a boost, support healthy blood pressure, and help give you sustained energy throughout the day.
"(-)-Epicatechin is one specific flavanol component within the mixture of cocoa flavanols."
What Is Epicatechin?
(-)-Epicatechin. The word may not roll off the tongue, but its role in helping the body has been clinically proven. (-)-Epicatechin is one specific flavanol component within the mixture of cocoa flavanols. Other foods that contain flavonoids include apples, blueberries, grapes, pears, and teas, but the relative abundance of (-)-epicatechin in each of these foods varies and is impacted by how the food is grown, stored, and even prepared. It’s a specific flavanol form which research has shown to be both readily-absorbed and a key bioactive in the cocoa flavanol mixture.
(-)-Epicatechin is a key bioactive component in the mixture of flavanols found in cocoa. In studies with cocoa, (-)-epicatechin is rapidly absorbed and has been shown to increase the body’s levels of nitric oxide, the molecule responsible for helping blood vessels dilate. When your arteries are healthy and flexible, oxygen and nutrients have an easier time flowing throughout your body, which can help your body perform at its best from head to toe. Improved blood flow can promote brain and heart health: think improved memory and proven cardiovascular support. While the raw, unprocessed cocoa bean can contain a high amount of cocoa flavanols, including (-)-epicatechin, how cocoa is processed matters. Even natural cocoa powder, which is non-alkalized (a process known to destroy flavanols), contains about 10-15 mg of (-)-epicatechin in one tablespoon. An even better source though are CocoaVia™ cocoa extract supplements. Why? Because every serving of CocoaVia™ provides 450-750 mg of cocoa flavanols, of which 65-115 mg is (-)-epicatechin!
Cocoa-Bout An Ideal Relationship
The science may be a bit complex, but the relationship between cocoa flavanols and the body is clear: when people consume foods that contain cocoa flavanols, they can experience a range of benefits. Learn more about the science behind cocoa flavanols or explore CocoaVia™ cocoa extract supplements and see how you can enjoy the heart and brain-boosting health advantages of this powerful plant-based nutrient.