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Epicatechin Benefits Worth Knowing

Epicatechin Benefits Worth Knowing

Epicatechin is one of the most abundant flavinoids found in green tea, cocoa, and fruits like cherries, grapes, and blackberries, known for its antioxidant properties and its potential for supporting nitric oxide production which may help with aerobic and anaerobic fitness.

In this article, we're taking a closer look at epicatechin, its potential wellness benefits, and the biological processes at play when protecting against cardiovascular disease, muscle protein synthesis, exercise performance, and more.

A Breakdown of Epicatechin Benefits

Research on epicatechin started around the 1990s, sparked by interest in the "French Paradox" — the observation that despite a high-fat diet, the French experienced lower cardiovascular disease rates, potentially due to their consumption of flavonoid-rich red wine [1].

Some research points to epicatechin's potential for supporting cardiovascular health, muscle growth, and antioxidant properties.

Let's take a closer look at what epicatechin does.

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Cardiovascular Health

Blood flow efficiency is important for reducing the workload on the heart, which can help maintain healthier blood pressure levels and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke — two prevalent cardiovascular diseases.

We have to underscore that taking epicatechin supplements or eating more dark chocolate isn't a treatment for cardiovascular conditions. That said, we wanted to highlight some of the research on epicatechin's effects on heart health.

The molecular mechanisms of how epicatechin affects the cardiovascular system involve its interactions within the blood vessels and the heart. Epicatechin can work in two main ways:

  1. Receptor-Mediated Actions: Epicatechin may bind to specific receptors on the surface of cells in the cardiovascular system, initiating certain beneficial effects.
  2. Direct Cellular Entry: Alternatively, epicatechin might enter cells directly and exert its effects from within, independent of receptors [1].

This suggests that epicatechin can directly influence the functions of these cells, contributing to its overall cardiovascular benefits. 

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Skeletal Muscle Growth and Strength

When it comes to the muscle-building community and for aging adults, epicatechin's benefits towards supporting lean muscle mass are a big topic of interest.

Several studies have explored this and found that epicatechin may help regulate muscle protein synthesis for muscle repair and growth. By influencing this pathway, epicatechin can potentially enhance the body's ability to build and maintain muscle tissue [2].

Another action epicatechin may have on muscle physiology is its possible myostatin inhibition properties.

Myostatin is a protein known to inhibit muscle growth. Research suggests that epicatechin can decrease myostatin levels, reducing muscle growth-inhibiting effects. A decrease in myostatin can potentially lead to increased muscle mass and strength [2]. 

Insulin capsule

Insulin Sensitivity

The mechanism by which epicatechin may support healthy insulin sensitivity involves its antioxidant properties, which can help reduce oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress is known to impair insulin action.

By helping to maintain healthy stress levels, epicatechin could potentially improve the function of insulin receptors on cell surfaces, allowing cells to respond more effectively to insulin. This improved response helps in the more efficient glucose uptake from the blood, thereby aiding in maintaining normal blood sugar levels [3].

That being said, insulin regulation is complex, and epicatechin supplements alone shouldn't be the only approach to conditions such as diabetes.

Consuming foods rich in epicatechin as part of a balanced diet can potentially improve insulin sensitivity naturally. However, for those at risk of or managing type 2 diabetes, such dietary strategies should complement, not replace, conventional treatments prescribed by healthcare professionals.

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Brain Health

Flavonoids are recognized for their strong antioxidant potential, and epicatechin is no exception. It’s believed that epicatechin may play a role in protecting neurons against the harmful effects of oxidative stress and inflammation, which are two contributors to neurodegenerative diseases and aging.

Preliminary studies on humans have shown that consuming flavonoid-rich cocoa containing epicatechin is linked with improved cognitive performance, especially in elderly individuals [4].

Nitric Oxide Production and Athletic Performance

One key area where epicatechin shows promise is its ability to support the body's natural nitric oxide production process.

Nitric oxide is an important molecule involved in vasodilation — the widening of the blood vessels. This process is especially key for athletes as nitric oxide improves muscle blood flow, enhancing oxygen and nutrient delivery to muscles during intense exercise.

Increased blood flow boosts athletic performance and aids in muscle growth and strength.

How Epicatechin Supports This Process

Epicatechin may support the body's ability to produce nitric oxide through interactions with enzymes that synthesize nitric oxide, especially nitric oxide synthase (eNOS), the enzyme responsible for producing nitric oxide in the blood vessel walls.

Through its interaction with eNOS, epicatechin may help dilate blood vessels, which can lead to improved blood flow to muscles. Enhanced blood flow could also contribute to reducing blood pressure, supporting cardiovascular health.

The research on epicatechin for building skeletal muscle mass and improving cardiovascular health is still part of ongoing research and not yet fully established, so even though many muscle builders, athletes, and biohackers are big fans of this compound, it shouldn't be a substitute for medical treatment and advice from a health care professional as it is a dietary supplement that's meant to support an already healthy lifestyle and not a drug.

Epicatechin and Effects on Hormones

Epicatechin is not a steroid or a growth hormone stimulator. Because epicatechin is often discussed in the context of muscle building, it's important to clarify this.

Its influence on muscle and other body systems is subtler and more natural pathways and involves different mechanisms that are currently under scientific investigation.

Anabolic steroids directly influence hormone levels to stimulate muscle protein synthesis — Epicatechin doesn't alter hormone levels in such a direct or potent manner.

While epicatechin is not a direct hormonal agent, research suggests it may indirectly affect hormone-related processes, primarily through its influence on insulin sensitivity.

Epicatechin may influence insulin sensitivity, which is responsible for maintaining blood sugar levels. By potentially supporting healthy insulin sensitivity, epicatechin could help maintain more stable blood sugar levels needed for overall hormonal balance.

Epicatechin Side Effects

Epicatechin is considered safe in foods rich in epicatechin, like green tea, red wine, and cacao. However, when taken as a concentrated supplement, some undesired effects could occur:

  • Digestive upset: Some people may experience mild and temporary digestive discomfort like stomach cramps or nausea, particularly when taking higher doses.
  • Allergic reactions: As with any naturally derived product, there is a risk of allergic reactions, such as itching and swelling, especially in people sensitive to flavonoids.
  • Drug interactions: Epicatechin could interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners or heart medication, so please consult your health care professional before adding a new supplement to your routine.

What Are Normal Dosage Ranges for Epicatechin Supplements? 

A bunch of white tablets on a spoon

There isn't a specified dosage range for epicatechin that will yield more efficient results to enhance muscle protein synthesis or improve athletic performance. This is because there aren't any clinical studies directly investigating this and the effects of epicatechin are very individual and can depend on the person's health level, age, and existing conditions.

We can tell you some of the normal ranges of epicatechin found in foods and popular supplements on the market.

One cup of brewed green tea could contain anywhere from 50-100 mg of epicatechin [5]. And in supplements, you can find epicatechin in doses anywhere from 50–1000 mg daily.

What Does Taking Epicatechin Supplements Feel Like?

Don't expect a dramatic before-and-after with epicatechin supplements alone. Unlike stimulants or energy supplements, epicatechin supplements don't generally produce immediate or noticeable sensations. The effects are subtle and build over time, focusing primarily on internal health improvements rather than overt physical changes.

Over weeks or months, some users might notice improvements in muscle endurance and recovery, particularly if they are engaged in regular physical activity.

If you're looking to get started with epicatechin supplements, you should set realistic expectations and patience is key. The potential health benefits of epicatechin, such as enhanced muscle health and improved cardiovascular function, develop gradually and require consistent intake and lifestyle changes like a balanced diet and regular exercise.

To really understand how epicatechin supplements are affecting you, it's a good idea to keep an eye on these changes in your fitness levels, muscle recovery, and overall stamina and record it in a journal either in an app or with pen and paper and discuss these personal health goals with a healthcare professional who can provide you with tailored guidance.

The Takeaway: Potential Epicatechin Benefits

A mature smiling man stretching on a park

Epicatechin isn't a miracle compound or a hormonal drug. Its effects are much more subtle and work to support the body's existing physiological functions that support skeletal muscle health, cardiovascular function, and potentially insulin regularity.

As a natural supplement, epicatechin can be a non-invasive addition to a healthy lifestyle, especially for those interested in natural ways to support physical fitness and healthy aging.

The important thing here is to approach its use with realistic expectations and, when appropriate, with consultation from a healthcare professional to ensure it fits safely within your health plan.

While epicatechin can offer support, it does so with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and a healthy lifestyle.


  1. Bernatova, I. (2018). Biological activities of (−)-epicatechin and (−)-epicatechin-containing foods: Focus on cardiovascular and neuropsychological health. Biotechnology Advances, 36(3), 666-681.
  2. Gutierrez-Salmean, G., Ciaraldi, T. P., Nogueira, L., Barboza, J., Taub, P. R., Hogan, M. C., ... & Ramirez-Sanchez, I. (2014). Effects of (−)-epicatechin on molecular modulators of skeletal muscle growth and differentiation. The Journal of nutritional biochemistry, 25(1), 91-94.
  3. Josic, J., Olsson, A. T., Wickeberg, J., Lindstedt, S., & Hlebowicz, J. (2010). Does green tea affect postprandial glucose, insulin and satiety in healthy subjects: a randomized controlled trial. Nutrition Journal, 9, 1-8.
  4. Socci, V., Tempesta, D., Desideri, G., De Gennaro, L., & Ferrara, M. (2017). Enhancing human cognition with cocoa flavonoids. Frontiers in Nutrition, 4, 19.
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Katrina Lubiano

Based in Canada, Katrina is an experienced content writer and editor specializing in health and wellness. With a journalistic approach, she's crafted over 900,000 words on supplements, striving to debunk myths and foster a holistic approach to healthi...