Cacao Flavanols

Cacao Flavanols

The term “cacao flavanols” refers to the sum of the simple (monomeric) flavanols, including epicatechin, and to a lesser extent, catechin, as well as the oligomers from dimers (two linked flavanols) to decamers (ten linked flavanols).
The types and amount of flavanols found in the cacao bean are changed and destroyed with standard processing techniques to make chocolate and other cocoa products. That is why it is important to remember to take caution when assuming that chocolate is a good source of flavanols.
To make sure you have accurate information – separate the facts from the fiction about cacao flavanols.

The Science of Cacao Flavanols

A significant body of published research has shown that consumption of cocoa flavanols can maintain healthy blood vessel function, thereby helping to support the health and function of the cardiovascular system. The cardiovascular system is an organ system consisting of primarily the blood vessels (arteries, veins, resistant vessels) and the heart that enables a healthy blood flow to transport nutrients (such as amino acids, glucose and electrolytes), oxygen, and carbon dioxide throughout the body.


The endothelium is the inner lining of the arterial blood vessels. An artery with healthy endothelium is able to dilate, or widen, when increased blood flow is needed. This process is known as flow-mediated dilation or FMD. FMD is dependent on the ability of the endothelium to release nitric oxide (NO), a compound produced by the body that causes the endothelium and the blood vessels to relax and contract to facilitate the healthy flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the body as needed. Endothelial dysfunction is associated with high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases, and often increases with age.

Previous studies show that dietary consumption of cocoa flavanols play a role in the body’s production of nitric oxide, which is important to the health of the cardiovascular and circulatory system.

Many of these studies looked at people who had a history of heart disease or were at high risk for heart disease (vascular dysfunction). Further investigation is required in order to understand how cocoa flavanols may impact the cardiovascular system in health adults and if cocoa flavanols can help people stay healthier, longer.