Epicatechin extends life span in fruit flies and diabetic mice
The June, 2011 issue of the Journal of Nutrition published the finding of researchers at Virginia Tech University of increased survival in Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) and obese diabetic mice that were given epicatechin, a flavonoid compound that occurs in tea and cocoa.
In their introduction to the article, Dongmin Liu and colleagues note that the life expectancy of diabetics is 7.5 to 8.2 years less than that of nondiabetics, and that death occurs primarily as a result of disease complications. For the current research, five-week-old diabetic mice were divided to receive regular drinking water or water containing 0.25 percent epicatechin (providing approximately 150 milligrams epicatechin per kilogram body weight) for 15 weeks. A group of lean mice served as controls.
At the end of the study, half of the untreated diabetic mice had died, compared with 8.4 percent of those that received epicatechin. Although body weight gain and food intake were not affected, treatment with epicatechin was associated with a reduction in aortic vessel and liver degeneration, as well as less liver fat deposition compared to untreated animals. Mice that received epicatechin also experienced decreases in low density lipoprotein cholesterol, insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and markers of inflammation; and increases in skeletal muscle function and liver antioxidant glutathione and superoxide dismutase (one of the body's antioxidants) activity, all of which are associated with a healthier and longer life span.
In another experiment, the researchers gave fruit flies diets that provided 0.01, 0.1, 1, or 8 micromoles per liter epicatechin or no epicatechin for up to 72 days. Flies that received the three highest concentrations of epicatechin exhibited a significant increase in mean life span.
In their discussion of the findings, the authors remark that it is well recognized that IGF-1 levels are inversely associated with mammalian life span, and that the current study's outcome "further suggests that epicatechin may be a food-derived, antiaging compound given the important role of IGF-1 in regulating the life span of organisms."
"The findings in this study demonstrate that epicatechin may be an antiaging compound, as evidenced by the improved [diabetic] mouse survival and the favorable changes in a variety of age-related biomarkers," they conclude. "However, more preclinical studies are needed to further characterize the potential antiaging effects of this compound and to define the exact molecular mechanism(s) by which it may act."
Before insulin, botanical medicines were used to treat diabetes. They are remarkably safe and effective. However, because many botanical medicines function similarly to insulin, people taking oral diabetes medications or insulin should use caution to avoid hypoglycemia. Botanical medicines should be integrated into a regimen of adequate exercise, healthy eating, nutritional supplements, and medical support.
Cinnamon. Cinnamon has been used for several thousand years in traditional Ayurvedic and Greco-European medical systems. Native to tropical southern India and Sri Lanka, the bark of this evergreen tree is used to manage conditions such as nausea, bloating, flatulence, and anorexia. It is also one of the world’s most common spices, used to flavor everything from oatmeal and apple cider to cappuccino. Recent research has revealed that regular use of cinnamon can also promote healthy glucose metabolism.
Coffee berry. Coffee berry contains some well-studied phytochemicals such as chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, ferulic acid, and quinic acid (Charles-Bernard M et al 2005). Some of coffee berry’s most impressive effects can be seen in blood glucose management. Chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid are the two primary nutrients in coffee that benefit individuals with high blood sugar. Glucose-6-phosphatase is an enzyme crucial to the regulation of blood sugar. Since glucose generation from glycogen stored in the liver is often overactive in people with high blood sugar (Basu R et al 2005), reducing the activity of the glucose-6-phosphatase enzyme leads to reduced blood sugar levels, with consequent clinical improvements.
Green tea. The compounds in these plants, including epicatechin, catechin, gallocatechin, and epigallocatechin, are powerful antioxidants, particularly against pancreas and liver toxins (Okuda T et al 1983). Animal studies have shown that epigallocatechins, in particular, may have a role in preventing diabetes (Crespy V et al 2004). In studies with rats, epigallocatechins prevented cytokine-induced beta cell destruction by downregulating inducible nitric oxide synthase, which is a pro-oxidant (Kim MJ et al 2004; Song EK et al 2003). This process could help slow the progression of type 1 diabetes. In vitro studies have also shown that green tea suppresses diet-induced obesity (Murase T et al 2002), a key risk factor in developing diabetes and metabolic syndrome (Hung PF et al 2005).
Lecithin contains all the phosphatides found naturally in cell membranes. Lecithin works by increasing the cell membrane ratio of phosphatidylcholine/ phosphatidylethanolamine to cholesterol, maintaining cell membrane structure and increasing cell membrane fluidity.
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