ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Maggots as Good as Gel in Leg Ulcer Treatments
When Healing Becomes a Commodity
Relaxation Tapes or Mozart Lower Blood Pressure
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Safe Toys for Dogs
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Rheumatoid Arthritis Rising Among U.S. Women
Backpack Safety Should Be on Back-to-School Lists
Get in Step With Summer Foot Care
CANCER
Red Meat No No No But Oily Fish Yes Yes Yes
Exercise Cuts Lung Cancer Risk in Ex-Smokers by 45%
Method for Treating Cervical Lesions May Pose Pregnancy Risks
CAREGIVING
Transition From Home to Hospital Rarely Seamless
Weekend Admission May Be Riskier for GI Bleeding
UV Lights, Fans May Curb TB Spread in Hospitals
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
High Blood Fat Levels Common in Americans
Exercise May Blunt Salt's Effect on Hypertension
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
COSMETIC
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
DENTAL, ORAL
Good Oral Hygiene May Protect Against Heart Infections
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
Acid Drinks Blamed for Increase in Tooth Erosion
DIABETES
Lifestyle Factors Tied to Older Adults' Diabetes Risk
Out-of-Control Blood Sugar May Affect Memory
Boosting Vitamin D Can Do a Heart Good
DIET, NUTRITION
Regular Yoga May Improve Eating Habits
Breakfast Eggs Keep Folks on Diet
Eating Healthy : You Can Live Longer
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Exposure to 9/11 Fumes Tied to Chronic Headaches
Artificial Light Linked to Prostate Cancer Risk
Main Ingredients in Household Dust Come From Outdoors
EYE CARE, VISION
Americans Losing Sight of Eye Health
Nutrient-Rich Diet Lowers Risk of Age-Related Eye Disease
Poor Night Vision May Predict Age-Related Eye Disease
FITNESS
Walk Long, Slow and Often to Help the Heart
Basketball Star Details His Struggle With Gout
Higher Fitness Levels Tied to Lower Heart, Death Risks
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
GENERAL HEALTH
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Green Spaces Boost the Body and the Mind
Want Better Health in the New Year, Add Exercise to Your Day
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
A Little Alcohol May Help the Heart: Studies
Relaxation Tapes or Mozart Lower Blood Pressure
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Babies Who Eat Fish Lower Eczema Risk
Boosting Kids' Stroke IQ May Save Lives
Green Tea May Help Brain Cope With Sleep Disorders
MEN'S HEALTH
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
Soy Linked to Low Sperm Count
MENTAL HEALTH
17 Ways to Create the Perfect Workday
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
The 3LS Wellness Program for Reversing Chronic Symptoms and Creating Lasting Health
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
For Baby and Mom Alike, Breast-Feeding May Be Best
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
SENIORS
Want Better Health in the New Year, Add Exercise to Your Day
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
15-Point Test Gauges Alzheimer's Risk
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Air Pollution Slows Women's Marathon Times
Vitamin D Deficiency Puts 40% of U.S. Infants and Toddlers At Risk
Exercise, Weight Control May Keep Fibromyalgia at Bay
Add your Article

Ingredient in Dark Chocolate Could Guard Against Stroke

Something in dark chocolate seems to help protect the heart, and now researchers say they have identified the molecular mechanism by which a compound found in cocoa can guard against the damage of a stroke.

The compound, a flavanol called epicatechin, triggers two built-in protective pathways in the brain, according to a report published online last week in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism. The research team was led by Sylvain Dore, an associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine and pharmacology and molecular sciences at John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Animal studies raise the possibility that epicatechin may someday be used to treat strokes in humans, since its protective effect can be seen more than three hours after a stroke. Existing stroke treatments typically have a shorter window of activity.

While the cardioprotective effect of dark chocolate seen in several human studies appears to open the possibility that eating lots of chocolate is healthy, "I prefer to focus on cocoa," Dore said. "Cocoa is not like chocolate, which is high in saturated fat and calories. Cocoa can be part of a healthy diet, combined with fruits and vegetables."

It was a study of the cocoa-drinking Kuna Indians, living on islands off the coast of Panama, that led researchers to study epicatechin. An unusually low incidence of stroke and other cardiovascular disease in that population could not be explained by genetic studies, and eventually was attributed to consumption of a very bitter cocoa drink.

Studies by a number of scientists, including Dr. Norman K. Hollenberg of Harvard Medical School, identified epicatechin as the protective ingredient in dark chocolate and cocoa.

The latest research looked at the mechanism of protection in mice who were induced to have strokes. "We gave different doses of epicatechin in mice 90 minutes before a stroke and found that it reduced infarct [stroke damage] size," Dore explained. "When we gave epicatechin after a stroke, it had a protective effect up to 3.5 hours later, but not after six hours."

Detailed studies showed that the flavanol activated two well-known pathways that shield nerve cells in the brain from damage, the Nrf2 and heme oxygenase pathways, Dore said. Epicatechin had no protective effect in mice bred to lack those pathways.

The possibility of using epicatechin to limit human stroke damage is distant, Dore said. "We have to be very careful," he said. "There are a lot of steps before going to human trials, potential risks and side effects. We need more work and more funding."

Dore's long-term plan calls for studies of epicatechin metabolites and derivatives, in cardiac disease as well as stroke. "At this point, we are using only the pure compound," he said.

Dr. Martin Lajous, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard School of Public Health who took part in one study that showed a reduced incidence of stroke in people who ate dark chocolate regularly, agreed with Dore in saying that eating a lot of chocolate is not a healthy dietary move.

Not all chocolate is created equal, Lajous said. "That's why we did the study in France, where they eat dark chocolate that is rich in flavanols," he said. "Chocolate comes with a lot of calories. I would talk about small amounts of dark chocolate rather than chocolate in general."

And the protective mechanism by which chocolate might prevent stroke isn't yet clear, Lajous added. The main effect appears to be the lowering of blood pressure, he said. "Flavanols are hypothesized to affect relaxation of smooth vascular muscle, such as the endothelial lining of blood vessels," Lajous said.