Purpose: Cocoa intake has been associated with health benefits, improving cardiovascular function and metabolism, as well as modulating intestinal immune function. The aim of this study was to take an in-depth look into the mechanisms affected by the cocoa intake by evaluating the colonic gene expression after nutritional intervention, and to ascertain the role of the fiber of cocoa in these effects.
Methods: To achieve this, Wistar rats were fed for 3 weeks with either a reference diet, a diet containing 10 % cocoa (C10), a diet based on cocoa fiber (CF) or a diet containing inulin (I). At the end of the study, colon was excised to obtain the RNA to evaluate the differential gene expression by microarray. Results were validated by RT-PCR.
Results: The C10 group was the group with most changes in colonic gene expression, most of them down-regulated but a few in common with the CF diet. The C10 diet significantly up-regulated the expression of Scgb1a1 and Scnn1 g and down-regulated Tac4, Mcpt2, Fcer1a and Fabp1 by twofold, most of them related to lipid metabolism and immune function. The CF and I diets down-regulated the expression of Serpina10 and Apoa4 by twofold. Similar patterns of expression were found by PCR.
Conclusion: Most of the effects attributed to cocoa consumption on genes related to the immune system (B cell and mast cell functionality) and lipid metabolism in the colon tissue were due not only to its fiber content, but also to the possible contribution of polyphenols and other compounds.
Keywords: Cocoa; Colonic gene expression; Dietary fiber; Immune function; Lipid metabolism.