Cocoa polyphenols are thought to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Thus, cocoa-containing foods may have significant health benefits. Here, we studied the impact of chocolate liquor on vascular lesion development and plaque composition in a mouse model of atherosclerosis. Apolipoprotein E (apoE)-knockout mice were assigned to two groups and fed a Western diet that contained 250 g/kg of either chocolate liquor or a polyphenol-free isoenergetic control paste for 16 weeks. In addition to fat, protein, and fibers, the chocolate liquor contained 2 g/kg of polyphenols. Compared with the control group, mice fed the chocolate liquor had larger plaque areas in the descending aorta and aortic root, which were attributed to a higher mass of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) and collagen. Vascular lipid deposits and calcification areas did not differ between the two groups. The aortic tissue level of interleukin-6 (IL-6) mRNA was 5-fold higher in the mice fed chocolate liquor than in the control mice. Chocolate-fed mice exhibited an increased hepatic saturated to polyunsaturated fatty acid ratio than the controls. Although the chocolate liquor contained 14 µg/kg of vitamin D2, the chocolate liquor-fed mice did not have measurable 25-hydroxyvitamin D2 in the serum. These mice even showed a 25% reduction in the level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 compared with the control mice. Overall, present data may contribute to our understanding how chocolate constituents can impact vascular lesion development.

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