- Cocoa, apples, grape seeds, red wine, and a few other food sources contain high levels of flavanols (FL), also known as flavan-3-ols, which have been linked to some health benefits.
- Previous studies indicate that foods rich in FL have great potential in managing cardiovascular health, improving cholesterol levels, and increasing glucose tolerance.
- Now, using mouse models, scientists have investigated the relationship between dietary FL intake and fat metabolism.
- Study results reveal new evidence that may one day become useful treatments for cardiovascular disease and obesity-related diseases.
Flavanols (FL), also known as flavan-3-ols, are among the flavonoids most consumed in the American diet.
These compounds are found in many foods, beverages, whole and processed foods, and herbal supplements.
However, the exact mechanism of action by which FLs elicit their protective functions has long eluded scientists.
Recently, researchers in Japan set out to increase the body of scientific knowledge about FLs.
Using mouse models, they investigated the ability of ingested FLs to turn white adipose tissue brown.
Adipose tissue, or body fat, is an essential organ in maintaining the body’s energy balance, and is made up of white adipose tissue and brown adipose tissue. While white adipose tissue acts as a reservoir of energy, brown fat is important for maintaining body temperature.
Scientists refer to the phenomenon of white adipose tissue turning brown as brown adipose tissue. Here, white adipose tissue that stores energy is transformed into brown adipose tissue that breaks down blood sugar and fat molecules.
This is an important therapeutic event because the accumulation of excess white adipose tissue is associated with obesity and the development of cardiovascular disease. In addition, the conversion process also generates heat, which helps maintain body temperature.
Their results appear in the journal Nutrients.
Medical news today I reached out to study lead author Naomi Osakabe, a professor in the Graduate School of Engineering and Science, Shibura Institute of Technology, Japan, to understand the motivation behind the study.
“It is known that eating foods rich in flavan 3-ols (cocoa, apples, etc.) reduces the onset of obesity and its complications and also prevents heart disease. However, flavan 3-ols are poorly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, therefore, it is still It is unclear why it would incite such health-promoting measures.”
She added, “In our previous results, we found that the change in circulation after ingestion of flavan 3-ols [was] induced by sympathetic activation. Therefore, we hypothesized that flavan 3-ols might promote beige lipids and conducted this experiment to prove it.”
To verify their hypothesis, the researchers conducted two independent sets of experiments.
In the first experiment, the scientists randomly divided the animals into two treatment groups. One group was fed a single dose of the cocoa-derived FL diet, while the other group, which was not fed a FL-rich diet, served as the control group.
For both groups, the research team collected urine samples over a 24-hour period. This was done to measure the effects of pre- and post-oral control intake and a diet rich in FL – respectively – on catecholamine (CA) levels.
In the second experiment, the researchers also divided the animals into two treatment groups. One group was repeatedly fed the FL cocoa-derived diet for 14 days, while the other group, which was not fed the FL-rich diet, served as the control group.
At the end of the treatment period, the researchers harvested white and brown adipose tissue from both treatment groups. They did this to study the long-term effects of sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity on the structure and function of these tissues.
The researchers wrote that some parts of their previous study inspired this new study. Previously, they observed that a single oral dose of a diet rich in Florida caused the animals to respond to stress. This in turn led to activation of the SNS and a significant increase in catecholamine levels.
Catecholamines (CA), such as dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline, are released by the SNS during stressful events and help manage the body’s fight-or-flight response to these events.
In that study, the researchers concluded that an increase in CA levels could be used to assess SNS activity.
So, when else
In the first experiment, the researchers discovered that over a 24-hour period, the amount of CA excreted from the control group was nearly the same before and after eating the control diet.
However, they noted that a single dose of a fluorine-rich diet in the test group led to a significant increase in CA levels within 24 hours.
For the second experiment, the team observed an increased expression of brown protein markers in the brown adipose tissue of animals fed FL. In addition, they also observed that in response to SNS activation, beige adipose tissue was seen to develop in white adipose tissue.
These findings led the research team to conclude that oral fluid intake activates the SNS and is associated with browning of fats.
Surprisingly, they also found that “the effect of flavan 3-ols [FLs] It appears not only in subcutaneous fat but also in visceral fat. ”
This finding is important because excess visceral fat increases the risk of obesity. Therefore, FLs may open new avenues for investigation and new potential treatments for cardiovascular disease and obesity-related diseases.
However, there is still a long way to go from animal studies to human treatments.
In 2018, Dr. Gunter Konnell, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, University of Reading, UK, wrote an article in the journal Molecular aspects of medicine About FLs.
Browse the well-known anonymous article regarding the health benefits of FLs.
In the article, Dr. Connell explains that despite FLs’ health benefits, the data used to gather the results are mostly short-term, self-reported studies.
He concluded by saying that the observed health benefits of FL “require more widespread and rigorous confirmation.”
Incidentally, one cannot help noticing that part of this mandate is roughly similar to what researchers at Shibura Institute of Technology in Japan hope to do in their future research.
The team revealed that additional studies are still needed to properly understand the mechanism of action of FLs.
In addition, Professor Osakabe’s recent comments on the study also referred to playing the long game. She said , “[…] We found in this study [that] Flavan-3-ols promote the conversion of white fats to brown by overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system. this is [finding] It has brought us closer to elucidating the mechanism of the risk-reducing effect of flavan-3-oles on cardiovascular disease, which was not known for many years.”
Although Professor Osakabe and her team may not have obtained “accurate” answers, their study pushes scientific knowledge about FLs one step closer to a meaningful conclusion.