Previous studies have demonstrated that cocoa intake decreased Th2 immune-related antibodies in rats. In consequence, we aimed to study in depth this cocoa action, particularly assessing its effect on a rat model of food allergy (FA) and also on an anaphylactic response. The involvement of the intestinal immune system was analyzed to allow the action mechanisms to be investigated. The role of cocoa flavonoids in the antiallergic properties of cocoa was also established. Brown Norway rats were fed either a reference diet or diets containing conventional cocoa (CC) or nonfermented cocoa (NFC). FA to ovalbumin (OVA) was induced and, later, an anaphylactic response was provoked. As expected, the synthesis of anti-OVA IgE and other Th2-related antibodies was inhibited by CC diet. In addition, the release of mast cell protease II after anaphylaxis was partially prevented by CC, although other variables were not modified. The CC diet also attenuated the increase of some Th2-related cytokines released from mesenteric lymph node and spleen cells, and modulated the intestinal gene expression of molecules involved in allergic response. These results demonstrated the local and systemic influence of CC diet. The effects of the NFC diet were weaker than those of CC, suggesting that cocoa components other than flavonoids play a role in cocoa's action. In conclusion, by acting on intestinal and systemic immune functions, a cocoa-enriched diet in rats exhibited a protective effect against FA and partially against anaphylaxis, making this a food of high interest to the fields of health and immunonutrition.
Keywords: Anaphylaxis; Cocoa; Cytokines; Flavonoids; IgE; Mast cell protease.
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