Cocoa flavanols: effects on vascular nitric oxide and blood pressure

J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2011 Jan;48(1):63-7. doi: 10.3164/jcbn.11-010FR. Epub 2010 Dec 28.


Diets rich in fruits and vegetables have been associated with benefits for human health. Those effects have been partially ascribed to their content in flavonoids, compounds that are present in many edible plants and its derived foods. In humans, a significant number of studies has been developed analyzing the effect of foods and beverages rich in flavonoids on the presence and progression of risk factors associated to cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension. Cocoa derived products, rich in flavanols, have been thoroughly studied and demonstrated to be efficient improving endothelial function and decreasing blood pressure in humans and animals. However, the final chemical species and the mechanism/s responsible for these effects have not been completely defined. In this paper we present data supporting the hypothesis that flavanols could define superoxide anion production and then, establish optimal nitric oxide levels and blood pressure.

Keywords: (−)-epicatechin; antioxidants; nitric oxide; oxidants.