Does Epicatechin Contribute to the Acute Vascular Function Effects of Dark Chocolate? A Randomized, Crossover Study

Mol Nutr Food Res. 2016 Nov;60(11):2379-2386. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201600045. Epub 2016 Jul 26.


Scope: Cocoa, rich in flavan-3-ols, improves vascular function, but the contribution of specific flavan-3-ols is unknown. We compared the effects of pure epicatechin, a major cocoa flavan-3-ol, and chocolate.

Methods and results: In a randomized crossover study, twenty healthy men (40-80 years) were supplemented with: (1) 70g dark chocolate (150 mg epicatechin) with placebo capsules; (2) pure epicatechin capsules (2 × 50 mg epicatechin) with 75g white chocolate; and (3) placebo capsules with 75 g white chocolate (0 mg epicatechin). Vascular function (flow-mediated dilation (FMD) and augmentation index (AIx)) were measured before and 2 hours after interventions. Epicatechin metabolites time-profiles were measured in blood to calculate the bioavailability. Pure epicatechin did not significantly improve FMD (+0.75%; p = 0.10) or AIx (-2.2%; p = 0.23) compared to placebo. Dark chocolate significantly improved FMD (+0.96%; p = 0.04) and AIx (-4.6%; p = 0.02). Differences in improvements in FMD (+ 0.21%; p = 0.65) or Aix (-2.4%; p = 0.20) between pure epicatechin and dark chocolate were not significant. The bioavailability of epicatechin did not differ between pure epicatechin and dark chocolate (p = 0.14).

Conclusions: Despite differences in epicatechin dose, improvements in vascular function after pure epicatechin and chocolate were similar and the bioavailability did not differ, suggesting a role for epicatechin.

Keywords: Chocolate; Epicatechin; Flavan-3-ol; Randomized controlled trial; Vascular function.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Cacao / chemistry*
  • Catechin / analysis
  • Catechin / pharmacology*
  • Chocolate*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Endothelium, Vascular / drug effects
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Male


  • Flavonoids
  • flavan-3-ol
  • Catechin