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Br J Nutr. 2012 Feb;107(3):378-87. doi: 10.1017/S0007114511003035. Epub 2011 Jul 15.

Effect of cocoa-enriched diets on lymphocytes involved in adjuvant arthritis in rats.

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Departament de Fisiologia, Facultat de Farmàcia, Universitat de Barcelona, Avinguda Joan XXIII s/n, Barcelona, Spain.


Cocoa and its flavonoids have potential anti-inflammatory properties in vitro and in acute inflammation models in vivo. The aim of the present study was to ascertain the effects of two cocoa-enriched diets on adjuvant arthritis (AA) in rats, considering not only clinical and biochemical inflammatory indices, but also antibody response and lymphocyte composition. Female Wistar rats were fed with a 5 or 10 % cocoa-enriched diet beginning 2 weeks before arthritis induction and until the end of the study. AA was induced by an intradermal injection of heat-killed Mycobacterium butyricum suspension. The hind-paw swelling (plethysmometry), serum anti-mycobacterial antibody concentration (ELISA), blood and inguinal lymph node lymphocyte subset percentage (flow cytometry), and IL-2, interferon γ and PGE₂ released from splenocytes (ELISA) were assessed. Although the cocoa diets had no significant effect on hind-paw swelling, a tendency to reduce it was observed at the end of the study. Cocoa-enriched diets were able to decrease the serum anti-mycobacterial antibody concentration and the splenocyte PGE2 production, as well as the proportion of T-helper (Th) lymphocytes in blood and regional lymph nodes, which probably includes cells responsible for the arthritic process. The cocoa diets prevented a decrease in the proportion of regulatory T-cells in blood and a disequilibrium between inguinal lymph node natural killer (NK) CD8⁺ and NK CD8⁻ subsets. In conclusion, the cocoa-enriched diets during AA were not able to significantly decrease joint inflammation but modified Th-cell proportions and prevented specific antibody synthesis.

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