If you suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome you may well find that your symptoms are significantly reduced if you regularly consume dark chocolate – that means chocolate with a high cocoa content and without any milk in it. A pilot study carried out on patients with chronic fatigue syndrome found that their symptoms were alleviated when they consumed dark chocolate, much more so than when they consumed milk chocolate that had brown dye added to it.

According to the scientists from Hull York Medical School who carried out the pilot study, it is possible the dark chocolate is boosting levels of serotonin, a brain chemical. They also stressed that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) patients should consume moderate amounts of chocolate.

Team leader, Prof. Steve Atkin, said that a patient had commented to him that she felt much better after eating dark chocolate with a high cocoa content. She had mentioned that her habit had been to consume milk chocolate, which did nothing for her. This comment got him interested in high cocoa (dark) chocolate, which led to the pilot study.

Prof. Atkin and team carried out a trial with ten patients. Half of them received 45 grams per day of high cocoa content dark chocolate while the other half received 45 grams per day of milk chocolate which had been dyed to look like the other one. This went on for two months. Then they all had a month without any chocolate. Then another two months, eating the other type of chocolate.

It became clear to the researchers that those consuming the high cocoa content dark chocolate were experiencing a significant alleviation of their chronic fatigue symptoms. Two of the patients, who had been off work for six months, managed to get back to work.

Prof. Atkins explained that polyphenols are present in large quantities in dark chocolate. Polyphenols have been linked to reductions in blood pressure, as well as other health advantages. Atkins and team believe the polyphenols are having an impact on levels of serotonin in the brain.

The researchers stressed that none of the trial participants put on any weight during the pilot study. They added that patients with chronic fatigue syndrome may derive benefit from consuming small quantities of high cocoa content dark chocolate each day.

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a complex disorder, and very debilitating. The patient experiences profound fatigue (extreme tiredness) – this is does not improve with rest. Physical or mental activity makes the patient feel worse.

A patient with CFS functions at a much lower level of activity, compared to how he/she functioned before the onset of the illness. Nobody is sure what causes CFS and no diagnostic tests are available. It is important that the health care professional eliminates other treatable conditions that can cause extreme fatigue before diagnosing CFS.

Definition of CFS Symptoms

The patient must have experienced extreme fatigue for at least six months. The fatigue must not be the result of ongoing effort; it is not significantly relieved by rest, and causes a serious reduction in daily activities. The patient will also experience these eight characteristic symptoms:

— Symptoms relapse after mental or physical exertion
— Sleep is unrefreshing
— Concentration and memory are significantly impaired
— Muscle pain
— Aches and pains in multiple joints
— New types of headaches
Sore throat
— The neck and/or armpit lymph nodes are tender

For the patient, the symptoms can be severe and very disabling – as disabling as multiple sclerosis, depending on severity.

Useful information on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CDC) (resource no longer available at www.cdc.gov)

Written by: Christian Nordqvist