Scope: Previous studies have shown that a highly enriched cocoa diet affects both intestinal and systemic immune function in young rats. The aim of this study was to elucidate whether diets containing lower amounts of cocoa could also influence the systemic and intestinal humoral immune response.
Methods and results: Fecal and serum samples were collected during the study and, at the end, intestinal washes were obtained and mesenteric lymph nodes and small-intestine walls were excised for gene expression assessment. IgA, IgM, IgG1, IgG2a, IgG2b and IgG2c concentrations were quantified in serum whereas S-IgA and S-IgM were determined in feces and intestinal washes. Animals receiving 5 and 10% cocoa for 3 wk showed no age-related increase in serum IgG1 and IgG2a concentrations, and IgG2a values were significantly lower than those in reference animals. Serum IgM was also decreased by the 10% cocoa diet. The 5 and 10% cocoa diets dramatically reduced intestinal S-IgA concentration and modified the expression of several genes involved in IgA synthesis. A diet containing 2% cocoa had no effect on most of the studied variables.
Conclusion: The results demonstrate the downregulatory effect of a 5% or higher cocoa diet on the systemic and intestinal humoral immune response in adult rats.
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