Researchers at Oxford Brookes University are getting ready to begin an investigation into whether or not dark chocolate can ease symptoms for multiple sclerosis (MS) patients.
The MS Society is providing £70,000 of funding for the research, which will look at how compounds in chocolate known as flavonoids impact on the extreme fatigue that is often a symptom of the condition.
At present, over 100,000 people in the UK are living with MS, with common symptoms including vision problems, dizziness, spasms and difficulty swallowing. The illness can also affect the bladder, bowels and patients' balance.
Although flavonoids can be found in many other foodstuffs, including apples, bananas and superfood wholegrain quinoa, it is specifically cocoa flavonoids that will be focused on for this study.
In particular, doctors will be concentrating on how cocoa flavonoids impact on inflammation around the body, as well as fatigue, with the researchers believing their findings will show that dark chocolate consumption can ease these symptoms of MS.
Dr Shelley Coe, university lecturer and lead author of the study, explained: "Dark chocolate is generally seen as a food that's bad for you, but it has good things in it - including flavonoids."
To assess whether or not the scientists' predictions are correct, 40 patients with the relapsing form of the condition will be required to drink a mug of hot chocolate each day for six weeks. Half of the participants will be given a rich cocoa beverage with a high flavonoid content, while the remaining 50 per cent will get a chocolate drink with lower levels of these compounds to allow for comparable results.
Dr Emma Gray, head of clinical trials at the MS Society, commented: "We are delighted to be supporting this project as it is quirky and unusual, but ultimately based on robust scientific evidence.
"At the MS Society we want to explore creative ways of helping people with MS cope with their condition and we look forward to seeing the study progress."
Read about Barchester expertise in offering multiple sclerosis support.