Potential complementarity of high-flavanol cocoa powder and spirulina for health protection

Med Hypotheses. 2010 Feb;74(2):370-3. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2008.09.060. Epub 2009 Jul 3.


Recent studies show that ingestion of flavanol-rich cocoa powder provokes increased endothelial production of nitric oxide - an effect likely mediated by epicatchin - and thus may have considerable potential for promoting vascular health. The Kuna Indians of Panama, who regularly consume large amounts of flavanol-rich cocoa, are virtually free of hypertension and stroke, even though they salt their food. Of potentially complementary merit is the cyanobacterium spirulina, which has been used as a food in certain cultures. Spirulina is exceptionally rich in phycocyanobilin (PCB), which recently has been shown to act as a potent inhibitor of NADPH oxidase; this effect likely rationalizes the broad range of anti-inflammatory, cytoprotective, and anti-atherosclerotic effects which orally administered spirulina has achieved in rodent studies. In light of the central pathogenic role which NADPH oxidase-derived oxidant stress plays in a vast range of disorders, spirulina or PCB-enriched spirulina extracts may have remarkable potential for preserving and restoring health. Joint administration of flavanol-rich cocoa powder and spirulina may have particular merit, inasmuch as cocoa can mask the somewhat disagreeable flavor and odor of spirulina, whereas the antioxidant impact of spirulina could be expected to amplify the bioactivity of the nitric oxide evoked by cocoa flavanols in inflamed endothelium. Moreover, there is reason to suspect that, by optimizing cerebrovascular perfusion while quelling cerebral oxidant stress, cocoa powder and spirulina could collaborate in prevention of senile dementia. Thus, food products featuring ample amounts of both high-flavanol cocoa powder and spirulina may have considerable potential for health promotion, and merit evaluation in rodent studies and clinical trials.

MeSH terms

  • Cacao / chemistry*
  • Dementia / physiopathology*
  • Dementia / prevention & control*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Flavanones / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Spirulina / chemistry*


  • Flavanones
  • Plant Extracts