Cocoa flavonoids may have some benefit for people with multiple sclerosis, according to a small study in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry (March 4, 2019). These antioxidant compounds from cacao have shown promise in fighting inflammation, preventing blood clots, regulating the immune system and helping blood vessel linings relax, lowering blood pressure (Becker et al, Frontiers in Pharmacology, Dec. 12, 2013).
Cocoa Flavonoids Against Fatigue:
A previous study had shown that dark chocolate rich in cocoa compounds could improve symptoms of chronic fatigue (Sathyapalan et al, Nutrition Journal, Nov. 22, 2010). The investigators wondered whether cocoa flavonoids might also help people with the fatigue and fatiguability associated with MS.
To find out, they recruited 40 people with relapsing remitting MS. These individuals drank cocoa prepared with rice milk every day for six weeks. Nineteen of them got high-flavonoid cocoa, while 21 drank low-flavonoid cocoa and served as a control group.
At the end of the study, those on the high-flavonoid cocoa had slightly less fatigue. Their fatiguability was measured by how far they could walk in six minutes. Those who had consumed the high-flavonoid beverage could walk farther in six minutes than they had at the outset. The improvement was 80 percent greater for those in the intervention group than for those in the control group. People in the high-flavonoid group also reported less pain.
This preliminary research will need to be replicated before we can conclude that cocoa is helpful for MS, however. The investigators hope to recruit 80 people with MS for their next, more powerful, study of cocoa flavonoids.