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Nutrients. 2013 Aug 19;5(8):3272-86. doi: 10.3390/nu5083272.

Cocoa flavonoid-enriched diet modulates systemic and intestinal immunoglobulin synthesis in adult Lewis rats.

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Departament de Fisiologia, Facultat de Farmàcia, Universitat de Barcelona, Institut de Recerca en Nutrició i Seguretat Alimentària-INSA-UB, Barcelona 08028, Spain.


Previous studies have reported that a diet containing 10% cocoa, a rich source of flavonoids, has immunomodulatory effects on rats and, among others effects, is able to attenuate the immunoglobulin (Ig) synthesis in both systemic and intestinal compartments. The purpose of the present study was focused on investigating whether these effects were attributed exclusively to the flavonoid content or to other compounds present in cocoa. To this end, eight-week-old Lewis rats were fed, for two weeks, either a standard diet or three isoenergetic diets containing increasing proportions of cocoa flavonoids from different sources: one with 0.2% polyphenols from conventional defatted cocoa, and two others with 0.4% and 0.8% polyphenols, respectively, from non-fermented cocoa. Diet intake and body weight were monitored and fecal samples were obtained throughout the study to determine fecal pH, IgA, bacteria proportions, and IgA-coated bacteria. Moreover, IgG and IgM concentrations in serum samples collected during the study were quantified. At the end of the dietary intervention no clear changes of serum IgG or IgM concentrations were quantified, showing few effects of cocoa polyphenol diets at the systemic level. However, in the intestine, all cocoa polyphenol-enriched diets attenuated the age-related increase of both fecal IgA and IgA-coated bacteria, as well as the proportion of bacteria in feces. As these effects were not dependent on the dose of polyphenol present in the diets, other compounds and/or the precise polyphenol composition present in cocoa raw material used for the diets could be key factors in this effect.

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