The Health Secret of the Kuna Indians


The Kuna or Guna Indians are an indigenous people of Panama and Columbia.  The most Kunas live on small islands off the coast of Panama known as the San Blas Islands.  The other two Kuna comarcas in Panama are Kuna de Madugandi and Kuna de Wargandi.

The Kuna are among the first communities described with little age-related rise in blood pressure or hypertension.  They have been shown to have a low average blood pressure (BP, 110/70 mm Hg), the average found in the Kuna, even those over 65 years of age.

The Kuna living in the San Blas Islands drink a flavanol-rich cocao as their main beverage, (as much as 40 ounces per day), contributing more than 900 mg/day and thus probably have the most flavonoid-rich diet of any population.  This was shown to be their major source of fluid. The cocoa proved to be flavanol-rich and the flavonoids were shown to cause the activation of nitric oxide synthase in healthy volunteers and patients with atherosclerosis.

Following is an example of the Cacao drink prepared by the Kuna Indians:

Kuna Indian Cacao Drink Recipe

  • 1 small banana
  • 400ml water
  • 60g raw cacao powder
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 pinch cinnamon

Place above ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth and mixed.  Hot water can be used to make a hot chocolate version of this recipe.


Does Flavanol Intake Influence Mortality from Nitric Oxide-Dependent Processes? Ischemic Heart Disease, Stroke, Diabetes Mellitus, and Cancer in Panama

Aging, acculturation, salt intake, and hypertension in the Kuna of Panama

Hypertension, the Kuna, and the epidemiology of flavanols

Flavanols, the Kuna, cocoa consumption, and nitric oxide

Chocolate–guilty pleasure or healthy supplement?

Potential complementarity of high-flavanol cocoa powder and spirulina for health protection

The Blood Pressure of the Cuna Indians

Potential Complementarity of High-Flavanol Cocoa Powder and Spirulina for Health Protection, by Mark F. McCarty, Jorge Barroso-Aranda, and Francisco Contreras, Oasis of Hope Hospital, Tijuana, Mexico (PDF)


Raw Cacao Powder – Navitas Naturals

Chocolatl Verde – Nutriguard Research

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