iving in a world with a deadly disease like coronavirus, requires building a strong immune system to fight against diseases or stay healthy.
There some products, natural or artificial that helps to boost our immune systems and help our bodies fight against diseases.
One of such products is cocoa.
The immune functions of cocoa are mainly related to its polyphenol content and methylxanthine-theobromine.
The immune system protects the body against germs and foreign materials.
It is made up of two components- innate and adaptive.
The innate immune response is inborn or natural.
It quickly marshals agents of the immune system to deal with any invading foreign material (e.g. germ/pathogen).
The immune system is so sensitive and forever scanning the environment for any such foreign material.
At the same time, the immune system is able to distinguish self from foreign material and thereby avoid self-tissues.
The adaptive component is the acquired immune response.
It learns from previous exposure of the immune system and develops agents such as antibodies to deal with future encounters.
Oxidative stress has been identified as a major factor in inhibiting the immune system from performing its normal functions.
Oxidative stress is essentially an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralization by antioxidants.
There is oxidative stress in infections and the body usually mobilizes e.g. white blood cells in such situations.
Polyphenol-rich cocoa is a strong antioxidant and therefore able to mop up these free radicals produced via oxidative stress and in turn normalizes the functions of the immune system.
Indeed, cocoa is recognized as the highest source of polyphenols of all foods on weight basis.
Polyphenol-rich cocoa, apart from its antioxidant properties is able to independently act on the immune system to perform its functions to the desired level.
This ability is linked to its direct effects on signaling cells involved in regulation of the immune system and the theobromine component of cocoa.
The latest area of interest is the impact of the gut microbes (microbiota) on health.
There is a close link between the immune response and the gut microbiota (or flora).
The gut microbes or flora thrive best on foods with high fiber and polyphenol content.
Cocoa with a high fiber and polyphenol content is a very good nourisher of the gut microbiota.
The writer, Dr Edward Ampofo, is a medical officer at the Cocoa Clinic in Accra, Ghana.