Chocolate ‘as good for you as exercise’ Chocolate is as good for you as exercise, research suggests.

Scientists found that small amounts of dark chocolate may improve
health in a similar way to exercise.

The researchers focused on the mitochondria, the tiny powerhouses in
cells that generate energy, and discovered that a plant compound found
in chocolate, called epicatechin, appeared to stimulate the same
muscle response as vigorous activity.

Dr Moh Malek, from Wayne State University in Detroit, who led the US
study on mice, said: ”Mitochondria produce energy which is used by
the cells in the body. More mitochondria mean more energy is produced
the more work can be performed.

”Aerobic exercise, such as running or cycling, is known to increase
the number of mitochondria in muscle cells. Our study has found that
epicatechin seems to bring about the same response – particularly in
the heart and skeletal muscles.”

A specific type of epicatechin from cocoa was given to mice twice a
day for 15 days.

At the same time, the animals underwent 30 minutes of treadmill
training each day.

Researchers found that mice only fed epicatechin had the same exercise
performance as those running on the treadmill.

The findings were published today in the Journal of Physiology.

The scientists hope their research will lead to better ways of
combating age-related muscle wasting.

”The number of mitochondria decreases in skeletal muscle as we age,
and this affects us physically in terms of both muscle energy
production and endurance,” said Dr Malek. ”Applying what we know
about epicatechin’s ability to boost mitochondria numbers may provide
an approach to reduce the effects of muscle ageing.”

Middle-aged mice who both exercised and ate epicatechin showed an even
greater benefit.

”It appears epicatechin treatment combined with exercised could be a
viable means to offset muscle ageing,” said Dr Malek.

He added: ”At the moment it would be a leap of faith to say the same
effects would be seen in humans. But it is something we hope to
identify in future studies.”