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Br J Nutr. 2012 Feb;107(4):523-32. doi: 10.1017/S000711451100328X. Epub 2011 Jul 19.

Effect of a cocoa flavonoid-enriched diet on experimental autoimmune arthritis.

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


Previously we established that a cocoa-enriched diet in young rats reduces specific antibody production and the T helper (Th) lymphocyte proportion in lymphoid tissues. The aim of the present study was to ascertain the modulatory ability of a cocoa flavonoid-enriched diet on collagen-induced arthritis (CIA), which is mediated by anti-collagen autoantibody response and Th lymphocyte activation. Female Louvain (LOU) rats were fed with a cocoa-enriched diet, beginning 2 weeks before CIA induction. Hind-paw swelling and serum cytokine and anti-collagen antibody concentrations were determined. Anti-collagen antibody-secreting cell counts and lymphocyte subset proportions were established in inguinal lymph nodes (ILN). Reactive oxygen species (ROS), nitric oxide (NO) and TNFα produced by peritoneal macrophages were determined. Although arthritic cocoa-fed rats showed a similar hind-paw swelling time course as the arthritic animals fed a standard diet, the cocoa intake was able to decrease specific IgG2a, IgG2b and IgG2c titres. Moreover, cocoa intake in CIA rats reduced ROS production, TNFα and NO release from peritoneal macrophages, and decreased the Th:cytotoxic T cell ratio in ILN. In conclusion, a cocoa flavonoid-enriched diet in LOU rats with CIA produced no effect on hind-paw swelling but was able to modulate the specific antibody response and also the Th lymphocyte proportion, as well as the synthesis of pro-inflammatory mediators from peritoneal macrophages. Therefore, a cocoa-enriched diet could be a good adjuvant therapy in disorders with oxidative stress or autoimmune pathogenesis.

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