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Open AccessArticle

Cocoa Flavanols Improve Vascular Responses to Acute Mental Stress in Young Healthy Adults

1
School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK
2
Abbott-Nutrition Division, Research and Development, 3300 Stelzer Road, Columbus, OH 43219, USA
3
Centre for Human Brain Health, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Emad Al-Dujaili
Nutrients 2021, 13(4), 1103; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13041103
Received: 28 January 2021 / Revised: 10 March 2021 / Accepted: 18 March 2021 / Published: 27 March 2021
(This article belongs to the Section Phytochemicals and Human Health)
Mental stress has been shown to induce cardiovascular events, likely due to its negative impact on vascular function. Flavanols, plant-derived polyphenolic compounds, improve endothelial function and blood pressure (BP) in humans, however their effects during stress are not known. This study examined the effects of acute intake of cocoa flavanols on stress-induced changes on vascular function. In a randomised, controlled, double-blind, cross-over intervention study, 30 healthy men ingested a cocoa flavanol beverage (high-flavanol: 150 mg vs. low-flavanol < 4 mg (−)-epicatechin) 1.5 h before an 8-min mental stress task). Forearm blood flow (FBF), BP, and cardiovascular activity were assessed pre- and post-intervention, both at rest and during stress. Endothelial function (brachial flow-mediated dilatation, FMD) and brachial BP were measured before the intervention and 30 and 90 min post-stress. FMD was impaired 30 min post-stress, yet high-flavanol cocoa attenuated this decline and remained significantly higher compared to low-flavanol cocoa at 90 min post-stress. High-flavanol cocoa increased FBF at rest and during stress. Stress-induced cardiovascular and BP responses were similar in both conditions. Flavanols are effective at counteracting mental stress-induced endothelial dysfunction and improving peripheral blood flow during stress. These findings suggest the use of flavanol-rich dietary strategies to protect vascular health during stress. View Full-Text
Keywords: mental stress; cocoa flavanols; endothelial function; forearm blood flow mental stress; cocoa flavanols; endothelial function; forearm blood flow
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MDPI and ACS Style

Baynham, R.; Veldhuijzen van Zanten, J.J.C.S.; Johns, P.W.; Pham, Q.S.; Rendeiro, C. Cocoa Flavanols Improve Vascular Responses to Acute Mental Stress in Young Healthy Adults. Nutrients 2021, 13, 1103. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13041103

AMA Style

Baynham R, Veldhuijzen van Zanten JJCS, Johns PW, Pham QS, Rendeiro C. Cocoa Flavanols Improve Vascular Responses to Acute Mental Stress in Young Healthy Adults. Nutrients. 2021; 13(4):1103. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13041103

Chicago/Turabian Style

Baynham, Rosalind; Veldhuijzen van Zanten, Jet J.C.S.; Johns, Paul W.; Pham, Quang S.; Rendeiro, Catarina. 2021. "Cocoa Flavanols Improve Vascular Responses to Acute Mental Stress in Young Healthy Adults" Nutrients 13, no. 4: 1103. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13041103

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