The “Panama Secret” to better circulation

Beat peripheral artery disease for good

These days, I’ll take any break from the daily news cycle I can get. And honestly, who doesn’t like a good story about chocolate?

It’s been one of my favorite topics since I first read about a study on the Kuna Indians of Panama years ago. These indigenous people live on an island off the coast of Panama—and they have zero heart disease. But researchers found that when they move to the mainland, they suffer the same level of heart disease as any other Panamanian.

And the reason why may shock you…

The Kuna who live on the island eat a traditional diet, which happens to be very rich in cocoa. And as research has proven time and again, the connection between chocolate and heart health is really no coincidence.

Daily cocoa keeps you moving

According to some new research, flavanol-rich cocoa may help walking performance in patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD).

In a nutshell, PAD restricts the arteries leading to your limbs—blocking nutrients, oxygen, and blood flow. Now, it’s not quite the urgent health crisis that coronary artery disease is—when blood flow is blocked to your heart, causing heart attacks and death—but it comes with its own set of life-altering complications.

Leg pain and cramping—a phenomenon called “intermittent claudication”—is the most notorious hallmark of PAD. It can be triggered from even a short stroll around the block and can be downright crippling.

But that’s not all: Research also shows that PAD can increase risk of lower limb amputation by as much as 14-fold—while a combination of microvascular disease (when not as much blood reaches the heart muscle, leading to chest pain) and PAD may raise the risk as high as 23-fold.1

So, the simple, delicious fact that chocolate may help… well, in my view, this news couldn’t get any better. Especially since I see a lot of patients with PAD (generally as a result of eating too much sugar, or from underlying health conditions, like diabetes or obesity).

Cocoa flavanols hold the key

In this new analysis, study participants randomly received either a cocoa beverage or a placebo beverage three times a day for six months. And researchers found that the patients who drank the cocoa enjoyed significant improvements in six-minute walk distance compared to the placebo group—by about 150 feet, specifically.2

Researchers also found improvement in circulation to the legs, and improved mitochondrial function in the calf muscles of patients who drank the cocoa beverage.Needless to say, these are all results that conventional medicine has, unsurprisingly, struggled to achieve.

I sometimes wonder if the mainstream even knows what the mitochondria are good for—let alone, how to help these vital cellular powerhouses to work more efficiently. (Mitochondria are like tiny powerplants inside your cells. And when they malfunction, it’s been linked to a number of serious health concerns… from heart disease to diabetes to Alzheimer’s.)

But imagine being able to get blood flowing back to your legs again, and regenerating your calf muscles, simply by drinking some daily cocoa. Because that, folks, is exactly what this study showed.

And although I’m impressed, I’m not particularly surprised. Dark chocolate is packed with powerful flavanols—like epicatechin, for example—that can transform your health with daily consumption. But there are still some caveats you need to consider…

Extra help to get back on your feet

First and foremost, the cocoa powder used in this study was more than 85 percent cocoa—not your average chocolate syrup or hot cocoa mix, by any stretch of the imagination. That’s why I’m always urging you to buy as pure and unadulterated a product as possible.

Because when you add in sugar and fat to make cocoa taste better, it cancels out all the benefits of the healthy flavanols. So just say no to milk chocolate, and do what I do: Add some really dark and bitter cocoa powder—100 percent is best—to some water.

Heat it up, and once it’s fully combined, remove it from the heat and add a bit of stevia for sweetness. Drink it hot or cold—whichever you prefer. Either way, your legs will be happier for it.

Seven more safe, natural ways to boost circulation

In addition to pure, unadulterated cocoa, there are also a handful of additional supplements to improve your circulation. So, in an effort to keep your platelets slippery and to get your blood flowing freely again, I recommend the following:

1) French maritime pine bark extract—200 mg per day

2) Fish oil—3 grams (3,000 mg) per day of EPA and DHA

3) Vitamin E—1,200 IU per day of a full-spectrum product that includes tocotrienols and tocopherols

4) Ginkgo biloba—120 mg per day

5) Turmeric—250 mg per day

6) Citrus bioflavonoids—250 mg of diosmin, 25 mg of hesperidin, and 50 mg of quercetin, in two or three divided doses over the course of the day

7) Magnesium—32 mg of magnesium orotate per day, or 125 mg of magnesium taurate per day

Alongside a flavanol-rich, anti-inflammatory diet—one that’s full of fresh, whole foods and good fats, like in my A-List Diet—these supplements will help get you comfortably back on your feet for good.


  1. American Heart Association. “Microvascular disease anywhere in the body may be linked to higher risk of leg amputations.” Science Daily, 07/08/2019. (
  2. McDermott MM, et al. “Cocoa to Improve Walking Performance in Older People With Peripheral Artery Disease: The COCOA-PAD Pilot Randomized Clinical Trial.” Circ Res. 2020 Feb 28;126(5):589-599.