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IUBMB Life. 2013 Aug;65(8):710-5. doi: 10.1002/iub.1185. Epub 2013 Jul 11.

(-)-Epicatechin reduces blood pressure and improves vasorelaxation in spontaneously hypertensive rats by NO-mediated mechanism.

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Physical Chemistry, School of Pharmacy and Biochemistry, University of Buenos Aires-Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, National Council of Scientific and Technological Research (CONICET), Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Studies in humans have found consumption of certain flavanoid-containing foods to be associated with improvement in endothelial function and with reduction of blood pressure (BP). (-)-Epicatechin is a compound representative of the flavanols (a subfamily of flavonoids), abundant in cocoa seeds, which is preserved during the industrialization process to chocolate. The antihypertensive effect of dietary (-)-epicatechin was investigated on spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHRs). Consumption of (-)-epicatechin-supplemented diet (3 g (-)-epicatechin/kg diet) decreased BP in SHR by 27 and 23 mm Hg on days 2 and 6, respectively. On day 6, a 173% increase of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activity was observed in the aorta of EPI-SHR as compared to nonsupplemented SHR (P < 0.05). Responses to acetylcholine (ACh) were then examined in femoral arteries in the absence and the presence of L-NAME, a nonselective NOS inhibitor, to assess the ACh-mediated relaxation ascribed to NO-dependent and -independent mechanisms. Acetylcholine-induced endothelium-dependent relaxation in the femoral artery was significantly higher in EPI-SHR than in SHR, with a predominance of the NO-dependent component of this relaxation. The endothelium-independent relaxation, assayed by using the NO donor sodium nitroprusside, resulted in nonsignificant difference in the three experimental groups, demonstrating an unaffected function of vascular smooth muscle cells. These results give further support to the concept that (-)-epicatechin can modulate BP in hypertension by increasing NO levels in the vasculature.


chocolate; cocoa; endothelial dysfunction; flavonoids; hypertension; nitric oxide; phytonutrients

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