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Mol Nutr Food Res. 2009 Mar;53(3):389-97. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.200700396.

Influence of a cocoa-enriched diet on specific immune response in ovalbumin-sensitized rats.

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Department of Physiology, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.


Previous studies in young rats have reported the impact of 3 weeks of high cocoa intake on healthy immune status. The present article describes the effects of a longer-term cocoa-enriched diet (9 weeks) on the specific immune response to ovalbumin (OVA) in adult Wistar rats. At 4 weeks after immunization, control rats produced anti-OVA antibodies, which, according their amount and isotype, were arranged as follows: IgG1 > IgG2a > IgM > IgG2b > IgG2c. Both cocoa diets studied (4% and 10%) down-modulated OVA-specific antibody levels of IgG1 (main subclass associated with the Th2 immune response in rats), IgG2a, IgG2c and IgM isotypes. Conversely, cocoa-fed rats presented equal or higher levels of anti-OVA IgG2b antibodies (subclass linked to the Th1 response). Spleen and lymph node cells from OVA-immunized control and cocoa-fed animals proliferated similarly under OVA stimulation. However, spleen cells from cocoa-fed animals showed decreased interleukin-4 secretion (main Th2 cytokine), and lymph node cells from the same rats displayed higher interferon-gamma secretion (main Th1 cytokine). These changes were accompanied by a reduction in the number of anti-OVA IgG-secreting cells in spleen. In conclusion, cocoa diets induced attenuation of antibody synthesis that may be attributable to specific down-regulation of the Th2 immune response.

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