Objectives: Our goal was to test feasibility and efficacy of a dietary intervention based on daily intake of flavanol-containing cocoa for improving vascular function of medicated diabetic patients.
Background: Even in fully medicated diabetic patients, overall prognosis is unfavorable due to deteriorated cardiovascular function. Based on epidemiological data, diets rich in flavanols are associated with a reduced cardiovascular risk.
Methods: In a feasibility study with 10 diabetic patients, we assessed vascular function as flow-mediated dilation (FMD) of the brachial artery, plasma levels of flavanol metabolites, and tolerability after an acute, single-dose ingestion of cocoa, containing increasing concentrations of flavanols (75, 371, and 963 mg). In a subsequent efficacy study, changes in vascular function in 41 medicated diabetic patients were assessed after a 30-day, thrice-daily dietary intervention with either flavanol-rich cocoa (321 mg flavanols per dose) or a nutrient-matched control (25 mg flavanols per dose). Both studies were undertaken in a randomized, double-masked fashion. Primary and secondary outcome measures included changes in FMD and plasma flavanol metabolites, respectively.
Results: A single ingestion of flavanol-containing cocoa was dose-dependently associated with significant acute increases in circulating flavanols and FMD (at 2 h: from 3.7 +/- 0.2% to 5.5 +/- 0.4%, p < 0.001). A 30-day, thrice-daily consumption of flavanol-containing cocoa increased baseline FMD by 30% (p < 0.0001), while acute increases of FMD upon ingestion of flavanol-containing cocoa continued to be manifest throughout the study. Treatment was well tolerated without evidence of tachyphylaxia. Endothelium-independent responses, blood pressure, heart rate, and glycemic control were unaffected.
Conclusions: Diets rich in flavanols reverse vascular dysfunction in diabetes, highlighting therapeutic potentials in cardiovascular disease.