Cerebral blood flow response to flavanol-rich cocoa in healthy elderly humans

Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2008 Apr;4(2):433-40.


Background and purpose: Cerebral ischemia is a common, morbid condition accompanied by cognitive decline. Recent reports on the vascular health benefits of flavanol-containing foods signify a promising approach to the treatment of cerebral ischemia. Our study was designed to investigate the effects of flavanol-rich cocoa (FRC) consumption on cerebral blood flow in older healthy volunteers.

Methods: We used transcranial Doppler (TCD) ultrasound to measure mean blood flow velocity (MFV) in the middle cerebral artery (MCA) in thirty-four healthy elderly volunteers (72 +/- 6 years) in response to the regular intake of FRC or flavanol-poor cocoa (FPC).

Results: In response to two weeks of FRC intake, MFV increased by 8% +/- 4% at one week (p = 0.01) and 10% +/- 4% (p = 0.04) at two weeks. In response to one week of cocoa, significantly more subjects in the FRC as compared with the FPC group had an increase in their MFV (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: In summary, we show that dietary intake of FRC is associated with a significant increase in cerebral blood flow velocity in the MCA as measured by TCD. Our data suggest a promising role for regular cocoa flavanol's consumption in the treatment of cerebrovascular ischemic syndromes, including dementias and stroke.

Keywords: cerebral blood flow; cocoa; flavanol; transcranial Doppler ultrasound.