Cocoa flavanols (CFs) can improve flow-mediated dilation (FMD), blood pressure, and vascular stiffness in healthy subjects. Endothelial microparticles (EMPs) are markers of endothelial functional integrity, reflecting activation and injury. In plasma samples, we investigated whether age-dependent changes in circulating EMPs exist and whether CFs decrease EMPs in healthy humans. The concentrations of CD31+/41-, CD144+, and CD62e+ EMPs (flow cytometry) were increased in healthy elderly (n = 19) compared to young (n = 20) non-smokers. EMPs correlated with age, systolic blood pressure, and pulse wave velocity. CD31+/41- and CD62e+ EMPs inversely correlated with FMD. Following 2 weeks twice-daily CF consumption (450 mg), CD31+/41- and CD144+ EMPs decreased in both young and elderly subjects compared to the CF-free control. The EMP decrease inversely correlated with FMD improvements. Cardiovascular aging is associated with increased EMPs that can be modulated by dietary flavanols along with improvements in vascular function. This indicates that flavanol consumption can improve endothelial functional integrity in healthy humans.
Keywords: age; arterial stiffness; blood pressure; endothelial function; endothelial microparticles; nutrition.