Cocoa improves MS fatigue

6 March 2019

Results from a study carried out by researchers at Oxford Brookes University suggest that a daily mug of cocoa made from dark chocolate could improve MS fatigue.

Cocoa made from dark chocolate contains high levels of a group of chemicals called flavonoids which could potentially reduce fatigue through a number of different biological processes. Having previously shown that a single drink of high flavonoid cocoa improved fatigue, the researchers wanted to find out what would happen when you have a mug of cocoa every day for six weeks.

The study

Forty people diagnosed within the last 10 years with relapsing remitting MS and moderate to severe fatigue took part in this study.  Everyone drank a mug of cocoa first thing in the morning for six weeks; one half drank cocoa with high flavonoid content, the other half drank cocoa with low flavonoid content.  Participants rated their fatigue level three times each day and visited the study centre for further testing at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the six week period.

The results

After six weeks, there was a small improvement in fatigue levels in 11 of those taking the high flavonoid cocoa and in 8 of those taking the low flavonoid cocoa. Those that had the high flavonoid cocoa were able to walk slightly further in a six minute walking test. There was also some improvement in the pain and discomfort component of health-related quality of life questionnaire.

What does it mean?

The results suggest that high flavonoid cocoa could lead to a modest improvement in fatigue levels but a bigger study still, drawing participants from a wider geographical area would be needed to confirm the results.

Fatigue is one of the commonest symptoms in MS and can have a major impact on daily life.  Many factors can contribute to fatigue, so finding ways to cope with it requires a very individual approach, trying out a variety of techniques.  If a daily mug of cocoa continues to show potential in further, larger studies, it would be a simple, safe and low cost addition to the fatigue management toolkit.

Coe S, Cossington J, Collett J, et al.
A randomised double-blind placebo-controlled feasibility trial of flavonoid-rich cocoa for fatigue in people with relapsing and remitting multiple sclerosis.
Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry 2019 Mar 4. [Epub ahead of print].

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