Effect of cocoa's theobromine on intestinal microbiota of rats

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To establish the role of cocoa theobromine on gut microbiota composition and fermentation products after cocoa consumption in rats.

Methods and results

Lewis rats were fed either a standard diet (RF diet), a diet containing 10% cocoa (CC diet) or a diet including 0.25% theobromine (TB diet) for 15 days. Gut microbiota (fluorescence in situ hybridization coupled to flow cytometry and metagenomics analysis), SCFA and IgA-coated bacteria were analyzed in fecal samples. CC and TB diets induced lower counts of E. coli whereas TB diet led to lower counts of Bifidobacterium spp., Streptococcus spp. and Clostridium histolyticum-C. perfingens group compared to RF diet. Metagenomics analysis also revealed a different microbiota pattern among the studied groups. The SCFA content was higher after both CC and TB diets, which was mainly due to enhanced butyric acid production. Furthermore, both diets decreased the proportion of IgA-coated bacteria.


Cocoa's theobromine plays a relevant role in some effects related to cocoa intake, such as the lower proportion of IgA-coated bacteria. Moreover, theobromine modifies gut microbiota although other cocoa compounds could also act on intestinal bacteria, attenuating or enhancing the theobromine effects.

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