Procyanidin-rich Foods like Chocolate or Apples may Benefit When Consumed Moderately

February 7, 2023

Humans have evolved to live under mild stress. However, an abundance of food is causing ill effects like a higher risk of obesity, metabolic disorders, Alzheimer’s, and more. A new study found that B-type procyanidins present in some foods like cocoa and apple may induce a mild stress response called hermetic effect through the gut-brain axis, thus boosting metabolism and reducing the risk of chronic health disorders, including chronic pain treatment.

These days people are more likely to die of non-infectious diseases like heart attack, stroke, dementia, cancer, and so on. Most of these health disorders are caused by faulty lifestyle choices like bad dietary habits and a sedentary lifestyle. However, it also means that many of these disorders can be prevented, thus prolonging life.

We live in an era of abundance; hence obesity or metabolic disorders are the primary culprits causing many health disorders, including sciatica nerve pain treatment. Metabolic disorders not only cause significant mortality, but more importantly, they cause much disability. The majority of the global population is affected by one or other metabolic or chronic health disorders. bStudies show that making even smaller lifestyle changes may significantly reduce the risk of chronic health disorders.

Thus, for example, an increased intake of fruits like apples and chocolates may increase lifespan and prevent chronic health disorders. This is because fruits are rich in polyphenols, which are potent antioxidants. However, now researchers have found that there are multiple ways in which these phytocompounds help.

It appears that some not-so-good compounds in fruits like grapes and apples, called B-type procyanidin, a kind of polyphenol, may help reduce the risk of chronic ailments and premature death. It appears that they work by inducing a so-called hermetic response1.
Hormesis or hermetic effect is still a poorly understood phenomenon. Although constant stress is bad for humans, it seems that mild and intermittent stress is rather good for humans and is associated with healthy aging and longevity. This ability of mild stress to prolong life is called the hermetic effect.

Humans have evolved to be hunters and gatherers. It means that there was nothing like food security in the olden days. Hence, humans have frequently experienced stress for ages and lived without sufficient food, causing mild stress. This mild stress causes specific brain responses by influencing the nervous system. It is a kind of adaptive response that prolongs life by boosting metabolism and preventing metabolic disorders, autoimmune diseases, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and other health disorders.

However, modern humans are living much more comfortably, and specific stressors are not present. Of course, modern humans are more prone to mental stress than the stress caused by physical irritants, infections, or lack of food. But, mental stress differs from the kind of stress humans have become used to. Thus, mental stress is bad for humans, but certain stressors are rather good

Now a new study shows that some bioactive compounds present in foods may also help due to hermetic effect or by inducing a hermetic response. B-type procyanidins, made of catechins, a class of polyphenols, are among such agents that can cause a hermetic reaction. Though these compounds may not do much at smaller doses or may even harm at higher dosages, however, at moderate dosages, they induce a stress response and thus benefit health.

These compounds that can induce hermetic response are present in foods like cocoa, grape seeds, red wine, and many foods. When consumed in the right amounts, they can stimulate the working of the sympathetic nervous system through stress response, thus increasing thermogenesis. Hence, these organic compounds present in many foods at the right dose may help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, glucose intolerance, dyslipidemia, and more.

Researchers found that when these compounds, B-type procyanidins, were given in small amounts, they did not work. Similarly, if they were given in large amounts, they either did not work in lab mice or may even cause harm. However, when given at a moderate dose, they could significantly influence the gut-brain axis, stimulate the working of the sympathetic nervous system, increase thermogenesis, and boost metabolism, thus reducing the risk of various metabolic health disorders.

Researchers have long known that some toxic compounds, when given at the correct dose, may act as medicine instead. However, they did not know how these compounds worked. The new study shows that the activation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis caused by mild stress plays a vital role in their functioning. It not only prevents metabolic disorders but is also suitable for brain health and may boost memory and cognition.

Therefore, it would be right to say that mild stress caused by certain foods and lifestyle choices like intermittent fasting may boost cognition and memory and prevent neurodegenerative disorders and metabolic disorders.

By Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA, MHP