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Exp Toxicol Pathol. 2012 May;64(4):297-306. doi: 10.1016/j.etp.2010.09.002. Epub 2010 Oct 6.

Urban air pollution produces up-regulation of myocardial inflammatory genes and dark chocolate provides cardioprotection.

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Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences, The University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812, USA.


Air pollution is a serious environmental problem. Elderly subjects show increased cardiac morbidity and mortality associated with air pollution exposure. Mexico City (MC) residents are chronically exposed to high concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM(2.5)) and PM-associated lipopolysaccharides (PM-LPS). To test the hypothesis that chronic exposure to urban pollution produces myocardial inflammation, female Balb-c mice age 4 weeks were exposed for 16 months to two distinctly different polluted areas within MC: southwest (SW) and northwest (NW). SW mice were given either no treatment or chocolate 2g/9.5 mg polyphenols/3 times per week. Results were compared to mice kept in clean air. Key inflammatory mediator genes: cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), interleukin-1β (IL-1β), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), and the LPS receptor CD14 (cluster of differentiation antigen 14) were measured by real-time polymerase chain reaction. Also explored were target NFκB (nuclear factor κB), oxidative stress and antioxidant defense genes. TNF-α, IL-6, and COX-2 were significantly increased in both NW and SWMC mice (p=0.0001). CD14 was up-regulated in SW mice in keeping with the high exposures to particulate matter associated endotoxin. Chocolate administration resulted in a significant down-regulation of TNF-α (p<0.0001), IL-6 (p=0.01), and IL-1β (p=0.02). The up-regulation of antioxidant enzymes and the down-regulation of potent oxidases, toll-like receptors, and pro-apoptotic signaling genes completed the protective profile. Exposure to air pollution produces up-regulation of inflammatory myocardial genes and endotoxin plays a key role in the inflammatory response. Regular consumption of dark chocolate may reduce myocardial inflammation and have cardioprotective properties in the setting of air pollution exposures.

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