A daily dose of specially-formulated
dark chocolate may help cut chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms.
Patients in a pilot study found they had less
fatigue when eating dark chocolate with a high cocoa content
than with white chocolate dyed brown.
Researchers from Hull York Medical School
said the results were surprising but dark chocolate may be
having an effect on the brain chemical serotonin.
Experts said patients should consume chocolate
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known
as ME, is a condition with a diverse range of symptoms but
particularly characterised by profound muscle fatigue after
Study leader Professor Steve Atkin, an expert
in endocrinology, said the idea for the study came after a
patient reported feeling much better after swapping her normal
milk chocolate for dark chocolate with a high cocoa solid
He decided to see if other patients would
benefit and carried out a trial of 10 patients who received
a daily dose - 45g - of dark chocolate or white chocolate
dyed to look like dark chocolate for two months.
The patients then had a month off before
taking the other type of chocolate for two months.
Those taking dark chocolate reported significantly
less fatigue and reported feeling more fatigue when they stopped
Professor Atkin said he was very surprised
at the strength of the results.
"Although it was a small study, two patients
went back to work after being off for six months."
He explained: "Dark chocolate is high in
polyphenols, which have been associated with health benefits
such as a reduction in blood pressure.
"Also high polyphenols appear to improve
levels of serotonin in the brain, which has been linked with
chronic fatigue syndrome and that may be a mechanism."
He added that although more research was
needed to confirm the findings, patients would not do themselves
any harm by eating small amounts of dark chocolate and no-one
in the study put on any weight.
"If you derive benefit, then it's a no-harm,
Jane Colby, executive director of The Young
ME Sufferers Trust said it was important to distinguish between
ME and other types of fatigue.
"But a little bit of what you fancy does
you good - if it's not doing you any harm and it seems to
be helping you then fair enough but I don't think it's an
She added that people needed to eat chocolate
in moderation to ensure they do not put on weight.
Heather Walker, Communications Manager, Action
for ME, said: "Wouldn't it be wonderful if eating chocolate
every day could alleviate the symptoms of chronic illness?
"If it were that easy, there would not be
250,000 people in the UK today whose lives are being been
devastated by ME."
The researchers stressed the chocolate formulation
used in the study was not currently available to the public.