The People's Perspective on Medicine

Cocoa Flavonoids Help Ease Fatigue in MS

People with MS who consumed cocoa flavonoids in a drink reported less fatigue and pain. They also could walk farther in six minutes.

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.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Dark chocolate with a high percentage number or plain cocoa powder has the highest amount of beneficial antioxidants. Milk chocolate or Dutch processed cocoa (label may state processed with alkali) are not as beneficial.

For those thinking of making hot chocolate consider that the heat could be destroying some of the vital nutrients that you are hoping will help you.

I buy organic raw cacao powder or cacao nibs (grind the nibs up in a coffee grinder to be more of a powder) and add one tbsp to my granola every day. It tastes good, like having chocolate milk granola. I order online and use a brand sourced from small farms in Peru where the heavy metals are at least lower in quantity. And the cacao nibs are supposed to contain less cadmium than the cacao powder.

The raw cacao is processed at less than 110F so heat shouldn’t be a factor unless you go and mix the cacao in hot water.

I like cocoa nibs.

Re shingles, my husband’s doctor gave him an IV drip with Lycine, C, and a few other things I don’t remember. We believe it helped him heal faster and without the post-herpies pains. Once in a while he feels a little something and he takes an L-Lycine tablet that seems to help.

For those of us who would like to start on this regimen while studies continue, what constitutes a “high flavonoid cocoa drink”?

Wouldn’t it be better to use cacao, the unprocessed form of cocoa powder to get the benefits?

I live in a graduated-care senior living apartment, and several of my friends are here because of MS. They’re wondering how to get the cocoa flavonoids that you said might help them move more easily. Would it work to buy a carton of dark cocoa powder and mix it with hot coffee or hot milk? Or is there a pill or some other way to buy it?

I am entering my 3rd year of Shingles pain. Took Gabapentin for about a year but too many side effects. Does anyone know of a natural way to reduce the burning, stabbing and numbing pain of Shingles after it should be gone?

There is evidence from a Cochrane review suggesting that vitamin B12 supplements may be helpful.

Capsaicin (hot pepper) creams or patches may also be helpful.

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