Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Dark chocolate inhibits blood clotting

This appears to have been a transient effect and used a "specially enriched" chocolate

Having a piece of chocolate a day - not just at Christmas - could be the secret to staying heart healthy, according to scientists at the University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health.

Lead researcher Dr Baukje de Roos, from the Rowett Institute, said: ‘It’s an acute effect in the body that men and women both benefit from, but it’s more diluted in women.

‘These findings are not a carte blanche to eat chocolates as they are extremely rich in fat and sugar.

‘But probably eating a little bit of dark chocolate containing at least 70 per cent cocoa every day is going to do more good than harm,’ she added.

The scientists from the Rowett, who joined together with the Institute of Food Research in Norwich, studied what happened in the blood of 42 healthy volunteers, 26 women and 16 men, after they ate dark chocolate specially boosted with cocoa extract.

They were investigating the effect on blood clotting, the result of over-activity of platelets that stick together blocking blood vessels that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Compounds called flavanols which are found in cocoa, tea and apples, appear have a beneficial effect on platelet function - and they are higher in cocoa-rich chocolate.

The platelet function of people eating the enriched dark chocolate was compared with platelet function in those who had eaten dark chocolate - with a lower cocoa and flavanol content - and white chocolate.

Blood and urine samples were taken and then analysed two hours and six hours after chocolate consumption.

The scientists were looking at a range of platelet function tests such as platelet activation - a reversible process where platelets are starting to get stressed and sticky - and platelet aggregation - an irreversible process when sticky platelets clump together.

They discovered the specially enriched dark chocolate significantly decreased both platelet activation and aggregation in men, but only cut platelet aggregation in women. The strongest effects were seen two hours after the chocolate had been eaten, says a report published in Molecular Nutrition Food Research.

Researchers also measured bleeding time - which shortens as platelets become stickier.

They found that the specially enriched dark chocolate significantly increased bleeding time after six hours in both men and women, possibly caused by the metabolites that our bodies produce from flavanols.

Dr Baukje de Roos, said: ‘Cocoa is a rich source of flavanols and we already knew that flavanols can stop platelets sticking together but we didn’t know how they did this.

‘It was especially interesting to see that both men and women had improvements in their platelet function, but in different ways.

‘The strength of the effects seem to be more pronounced in men.

'Our study found that compounds deemed responsible for the beneficial effects, flavanols and their metabolites, are appearing in the blood stream and in our urine within hours of consumption, and are having a positive impact on platelet function effects.’

But the effects probably wear off quite quickly, lasting perhaps no longer than two days, which means people wanting to get consistent benefits need to take a daily dose.

‘We hope that our findings could ultimately help with the development of healthier foods and food supplements,’ added Dr de Roos.

Among health benefits from chocolate are a drop in the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, according to the biggest review ever carried out last year, based on healthy people eating at least two pieces a week.

Previous research shows eating chocolate reduces blood pressure and improves insulin sensitivity, reducing the risk of diabetes.


Baldness cure could be on shelves in two years

If this were right, asthmatics should all have lots of hair

 A hair lotion that cures baldness could be on the market within two years, believe scientists.

 They are already talking with pharmaceutical firms about making the product, which would work by stopping the effects of a single guilty enzyme.

 US-based dermatologists announced earlier this year that they had found that an enzyme, called prostaglandin D2 (PGD2), instructed follicles to stop producing hair.

 They identified it by screening 250 genes implicated in hair loss.

 George Cotsarelis, head of dermatology at Pennsylvania University, said the one responsible for levels of PGD2 played “the major role”.

 He said he was now talking with several drugs firms about creating the anti-baldness product.

Drugs are already available that reduce PGD2 levels, as it has been implicated in asthma, holding out the hope that developing a related product for baldness could be speedy.

 About four in five men will experience some degree of baldness by the age of 70. In bald patches follicles are still making hairs, but less well than before. The hairs get shorter and shorter until they are either barely visible or do not even break the skin’s surface.

 Cotsarelis and colleagues found that in 17 men with hair loss, PGD2 levels were three times higher in bald spots than in hairy areas.

 When the original study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine in March, he said: “We really do think if you remove the inhibition [caused by PGD2}, you get longer hair.”

 He said the finding raised the possibility of not only stopping hair loss, but of bald men also being able to regrow full heads of hair.

 Des Tobin, director of the centre for skin sciences at Bradford University, described the advance as “a big step forward”.

 He said: “I can’t see why we won’t soon be able to intervene to prevent hair loss.”


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