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(-)-Epicatechin, a flavanol found in cocoa seeds and green tea. While the health benefits of (-)/-epicatechin (Epi) have been known for centuries, recent research has demonstrated that this flavanol may be useful for treating the age-related decline in muscle mass and associated strength, or sarcopenia, due to its action as a myostatin inhibitor. You may be familiar with myostatin, as it is a protein involved in preventing the increase of muscle size and differentiation, so blocking its action would be beneficial to those seeking additional muscle mass. Initial studies demonstrated that administration of Epi for 5 days increased follistatin (which binds to and inhibits myostatin) by 2.5 times. And in a pilot study with human subjects treated for 1 week with Epi, changes to markers of muscle differentiation were demonstrated, in addition to increases in hand-grip strength. Specifically, the study with epi demonstrated that the ratio of follistatin/myostatin was increased by almost 50%!
But there are also several other benefits to Epi, including reduced cardiovascular risk, enhanced exercise capacity and enhanced oxidative capacity, as well as increased angiogenesis (i.e., creation of blood vessel formation) and improved vascular functioning via a NOS-dependent mechanism. Importantly, recent findings with satellite cells – precursors of new muscle growth and differentiation – identified that nitric oxide is a key messenger for maintaining function and enhancing proliferation of these precursor cells. All of these properties make Epi a very promising myostatin inhibiting compound.
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