What's Hot Archive - March 2007: "A new vitamin?
The March 12, 2007 issue of Chemistry & Industry, published an article by Marina Murphy that unveils glowing expectations for epicatechin, a compound found in cocoa, tea and wine. In fact, Harvard Medical School professor of medicine Norman Hollenberg believes that the compound is so important that it should be considered a vitamin.
Dr Hollenberg's observations of the Kuna people of Panama, who drink up to 40 cups of cocoa per week, are the source of his enthusiasm. The risk of the some of the most common western diseases: stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes, is reduced to less than 10 percent in this population. Additionally, no dementia has been observed among their many long-lived individuals. 'If these observations predict the future, then we can say without blushing that they are among the most important observations in the history of medicine,' Dr Hollenberg stated. 'We all agree that penicillin and anesthesia are enormously important. But epicatechin could potentially get rid of 4 of the 5 most common diseases in the western world, how important does that make epicatechin?... I would say very important.'
Natural Products Association vice president of scientific affairs Daniel Fabricant shares Dr Hollenberg's views. 'Vitamins are defined as being essential to the normal functioning, metabolism, regulation and growth of cells,' he explained. 'At the moment, the science does not support epicatechin having an essential role.' However, he noted that 'the link between high epicatechin consumption and a decreased risk of killer disease is so striking, it should be investigated further. It may be that these diseases are the result of epicatechin deficiency.'
For now, Fabricant suggests that phytonutrient is a more appropriate term since it is not yet known whether the compound is essential.
While many individuals might look forward to a guilt-free mug of hot chocolate, 'no doubt some people would prefer to get their epicatechin in capsule form,' Dr Hollenberg noted."