Cocoa procyanidins with different degrees of polymerization possess distinct activities in models of colonic inflammation

J Nutr Biochem. 2015 Aug;26(8):827-31. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2015.02.007. Epub 2015 Apr 1.


Procyanidins are available in the diet from sources such as cocoa and grapes. Procyanidins are unique in that they are comprised of repeating monomeric units and can exist in various degrees of polymerization. The degree of polymerization plays a role in determining the biological activities of procyanidins. However, generalizations cannot be made regarding the correlation between procyanidin structure and bioactivity because the size-activity relationship appears to be system dependent. Our aim was to screen fractions of procyanidins with differing degrees of polymerization in vitro for anti-inflammatory activities in models of colonic inflammation. Monomeric, oligomeric and polymeric cocoa procyanidin fractions were screened using cell models of disrupted membrane integrity and inflammation in human colon cells. High-molecular-weight polymeric procyanidins were the most effective at preserving membrane integrity and reducing secretion of interleukin-8 in response to inflammatory stimuli. Conversely, oligomeric procyanidins appeared to be the least effective. These results suggest that polymeric cocoa procyanidins may be the most effective for preventing loss of gut barrier function and epithelial inflammation, which are critical steps in the pathogenesis of metabolic endotoxemia, inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer. Therefore, further investigations of the potential health-protective benefits of cocoa procyanidins with distinct degrees of polymerization, particularly high-molecular-weight procyanidins, are warranted.

Keywords: Cocoa; Colon; Degree of polymerization; Inflammation; Permeability; Procyanidins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Biflavonoids / pharmacology*
  • Cacao / chemistry*
  • Caco-2 Cells
  • Catechin / pharmacology*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Colon / drug effects*
  • Colon / metabolism
  • HT29 Cells
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy*
  • Interleukin-8 / metabolism
  • Molecular Weight
  • Permeability
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Proanthocyanidins / pharmacology*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Biflavonoids
  • Interleukin-8
  • Plant Extracts
  • Proanthocyanidins
  • procyanidin
  • Catechin