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Front Pharmacol. 2013 Jun 4;4:71. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2013.00071. eCollection 2013.

The effects of cocoa on the immune system.

Author information

1
Departament de Fisiologia, Facultat de Farmàcia, Universitat de Barcelona Barcelona, Spain ; Institut de Recerca en Nutrició i Seguretat Alimentària, Universitat de Barcelona Barcelona, Spain.

Abstract

Cocoa is a food relatively rich in polyphenols, which makes it a potent antioxidant. Due to its activity as an antioxidant, as well as through other mechanisms, cocoa consumption has been reported to be beneficial for cardiovascular health, brain functions, and cancer prevention. Furthermore, cocoa influences the immune system, in particular the inflammatory innate response and the systemic and intestinal adaptive immune response. Preclinical studies have demonstrated that a cocoa-enriched diet modifies T cell functions that conduce to a modulation of the synthesis of systemic and gut antibodies. In this regard, it seems that a cocoa diet in rats produces changes in the lymphocyte composition of secondary lymphoid tissues and the cytokines secreted by T cells. These results suggest that it is possible that cocoa could inhibit the function of T helper type 2 cells, and in line with this, the preventive effect of cocoa on IgE synthesis in a rat allergy model has been reported, which opens up new perspectives when considering the beneficial effects of cocoa compounds. On the other hand, cocoa intake modifies the functionality of gut-associated lymphoid tissue by means of modulating IgA secretion and intestinal microbiota. The mechanisms involved in these influences are discussed here. Further research may elucidate the cocoa compounds involved in such an effect and also the possible medical approaches to these repercussions.

KEYWORDS:

antibody; cocoa; cytokine; gut-associated lymphoid tissue; lymphocyte; macrophage; spleen; thymus

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