Food effects on the absorption and pharmacokinetics of cocoa flavanols

Life Sci. 2003 Jul 4;73(7):857-69. doi: 10.1016/s0024-3205(03)00373-4.


Macronutrients in food and gastric acid are known to have a pronounced effect on the metabolism of many xenobiotics, an effect that impacts their efficacy as bioactive agents. In this investigation we assessed the impact of select food treatments and the histamine H(2)-receptor antagonist Famotidine (Pepcid-AC) on flavanol absorption and metabolism. Four crossover intervention studies were conducted with 6 subjects each. Volunteers consumed sugar-free, flavanol-rich cocoa (0.125 g/kg body wt) alone, with macronutrient-rich foods (8.75 or 17.5 kJ/kg subject body wt) or Famotidine (Pepcid-AC). Blood samples were drawn at 5 time points including baseline. Plasma samples were analyzed for epicatechin and catechin flavanols by HPLC. Pharmacokinetic parameters were assessed using non-compartmental methodology. When provided at 17.5 kJ/kg subject body weight (approximately 4 kcal/kg), sugar and bread test meals increased flavanol area under the curve (AUC) values to 140% of control values (P < 0.05). A corresponding tendency for plasma antioxidant capacity to increase was observed for the cocoa treatment at 1.5 and 2.5 h (P < 0.17, P < 0.06, respectively). The ability of treatment meals to affect AUC values was positively correlated with treatment carbohydrate content (r = 0.83; P< 0.02). In contrast to carbohydrate rich meals, lipid and protein rich meals and Famotidine treatment had minimal effects on flavanol absorption. Based on C(max) and AUC values, this data suggests that the uptake of flavanols can be increased significantly by concurrent carbohydrate consumption.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Area Under Curve
  • Cacao / metabolism*
  • Catechin / analysis
  • Catechin / metabolism
  • Catechin / pharmacokinetics*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Famotidine / pharmacology
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Food*
  • Histamine H2 Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Histamine H2 Antagonists
  • Famotidine
  • Catechin