Reproductive toxicity of theobromine
and cocoa extract in male rats

Wang Y, Waller DP, Hikim AP, Russell LD
Program for Collaborative Research
in the Pharmaceutical Sciences,
University of Illinois,
Chicago 60612.
Reprod Toxicol 1992; 6(4):347-53


The toxicities of theobromine and cocoa extract on the reproductive tract of male rats were compared in the present study. A cocoa powder extract containing 117 mg theobromine/g extract was prepared using 85% boiling methanol. Sprague-Dawley rats were weighed and dosed daily for 31 days with vehicle, 250 mg/kg theobromine, 2.14 g/kg cocoa extract (117 mg theobromine/g extract), or 0.43 g/kg cocoa extract by oral gavage. The animals were sacrificed on day 32. One testis and epididymis were removed and weighed. The epididymis was saved for the determination of epididymal sperm reserves. The remaining testis was fixed by whole body glutaraldehyde perfusion and processed for morphologic examination. A decrease in body weight gain and epididymal weights were observed in theobromine and high-dose cocoa-extract-treated groups. Theobromine and high-dose cocoa extract caused vacuolation within the Sertoli cell, abnormally shaped spermatids, and failed release of late spermatids in treated animals. Most of the vacuolations were found in the earlier and middle stage seminiferous tubules (stages I to VIII). However, the frequency of some parameters of testis alterations were significantly lower in the high-dose cocoa-extract-treated group compared to the theobromine-treated group. These data demonstrate the ability of a cocoa extract containing theobromine to alter testis structure in a similar pattern but with reduced intensity compared to that observed after oral exposure to pure theobromine.

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