Cocoa-enriched diet enhances antioxidant enzyme activity and modulates lymphocyte composition in thymus from young rats

J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Aug 8;55(16):6431-8. doi: 10.1021/jf070487w. Epub 2007 Jul 14.


Cocoa is a rich source of flavonoids, mainly (-)-epicatechin, (+)-catechin, and procyanidins. This article reports the effect of continuous cocoa intake on antioxidant capacity in plasma and tissues, including lymphoid organs and liver, from young rats. Weaned Wistar rats received natural cocoa (4% or 10% food intake) for three weeks, corresponding to their infancy. Flavonoid absorption was confirmed through the quantification of epicatechin metabolites in urine. Total antioxidant capacity (TAC) and the activity of antioxidant enzymes, superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase, were examined. Cocoa intake enhanced TAC in all tissues especially in thymus. Moreover, thymus SOD and catalase activities were also dose-dependently increased by cocoa. It was also analyzed whether the enhanced antioxidant system in thymus could influence its cellular composition. An increase in the percentage of thymocytes in advanced development stage was found. In summary, cocoa diet enhances thymus antioxidant defenses and influences thymocyte differentiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / analysis
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Cacao* / chemistry
  • Catalase / metabolism
  • Catechin / urine
  • Diet*
  • Enzymes / metabolism*
  • Flavonoids / analysis
  • Liver / enzymology
  • Lymphocyte Count*
  • Phenols / analysis
  • Polyphenols
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Spleen / enzymology
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism
  • Thymus Gland / cytology*
  • Thymus Gland / enzymology


  • Antioxidants
  • Enzymes
  • Flavonoids
  • Phenols
  • Polyphenols
  • Catechin
  • Catalase
  • Superoxide Dismutase