A recent pilot study, appearing in the journal Nutrients, concluded that in 12 older adults, cocoa flavanols administered in conjunction with an oral nutritional supplement were associated with an increased skeletal muscle vascular function, which translates to better deliver of oxygen and nutrients to lower limbs. However, this improvement didn’t relay to increases in muscle glucose uptake, the authors of the study said.
“Skeletal muscle is the largest organ system by mass in the body, and in being its locomotory engine, largest amino acid reservoir, and the main site of postprandial glucose handling, represents an organ crucial to the maintenance of physical functioning and metabolic health,” the authors of the study said, adding that age-related sarcopenia is a global health problem of perhaps the most importance to overall health. “Aging is also the main risk factor for cardiovascular disease, with deterioration of vascular systems feeding directly into skeletal muscle implicated in sarcopenia. Reflecting this, older adults display reductions of 20-30% in limb conduit artery blood flow compared to younger counterparts.”
For the randomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover clinical trial, healthy adults over the age of 65 were subject to an oral nutritional supplement (ONS)-only regimentation, as well as an ONS-cocoa flavanols period. The researchers measured lean leg mass, leg blood flow, microvascular blood flow, and blood samples throughout the study.
While oral nutritional supplementation increased glucose uptake and insulin both with and without cocoa flavanols, there was a key difference in postprandial microvascular blood volume seen exclusively in the cocoa flavanols intervention.
“Our primary finding was that acute cocoa flavanol supplementation may overcome age-related vascular dysfunction in the postprandial state, suggesting that the impact of cocoa flavanols goes beyond the effect of feeding-related insulin response, which alone is known to enhance microvascular flow,” the authors of the study concluded. “The ability to improve the vascular profile of lower limb muscles, alongside upper limb muscles, could have significant ramifications for whole limb functionality/muscle health in aging populations.”
“WE also determined whether cocoa-induced improvements in vascular responses translated into improved insulin/glucose metabolic responses; a hypothesis worthy of investigation since chronic intake of high dose cocoa flavanols can improve metabolic outcomes in type II diabetics.” However, no such differences between the cocoa and the control condition were observed.
Mike Montemarano has been the Associate Editor of Nutraceuticals World since February 2020. He can be reached at email@example.com.