Consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa acutely increases microcirculation in human skin

Eur J Nutr. 2007 Feb;46(1):53-6. doi: 10.1007/s00394-006-0627-6. Epub 2006 Dec 11.


Background: Long term cocoa ingestion leads to an increased resistance against UV-induced erythema and a lowered transepidermal water loss.

Aim of the study: To investigate the acute effects of a single dose of cocoa rich in flavanols on dermal microcirculation.

Methods: In a crossover design study, 10 healthy women ingested a cocoa drink (100 ml) with high (329 mg) or low (27 mg) content of flavanols. The major flavanol monomer in both drinks was epicatechin, 61 mg in the high flavanol, and 6.6 mg in the low flavanol product per 100 ml. Dermal blood flow and oxygen saturation of hemoglobin were examined by laser Doppler flowmetry and spectroscopically at 1 mm skin depth at t = 0, 1, 2, 4, and 6 h. At the same time points, plasma levels of total epicatechin (free compound plus conjugates) were measured by means of HPLC.

Results: Subsequent to the intake of high flavanol cocoa, dermal blood flow was significantly increased by 1.7-fold at t = 2 h and oxygen saturation was elevated 1.8-fold. No statistically significant changes were found upon intake of low flavanol cocoa. Maximum plasma levels of total epicatechin were observed 1 h after ingestion of the high flavanol cocoa drink, 11.6 +/- 7.4 nmol/l at baseline, and 62.9 +/- 35.8 nmol/l at 1 h. No change of total epicatechin was found in the low flavanol group.

Conclusion: Flavanol-rich cocoa consumption acutely increases dermal blood flow and oxygen saturation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Beverages*
  • Cacao / chemistry*
  • Catechin / administration & dosage
  • Catechin / blood
  • Catechin / pharmacology*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Flavonoids / administration & dosage
  • Flavonoids / blood
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Laser-Doppler Flowmetry / methods
  • Microcirculation / drug effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Skin / blood supply*
  • Spectrum Analysis / methods


  • Flavonoids
  • Catechin