Indulge in that rich decadant cocoa delight.

You must deserve that chocolate bar after a job well done. But you don’t have to feel guilty and lose sleep over the fact that you gave in to your cravings.  The results of a new study have shown that eating dark chocolate products that are rich in flavanols may help alleviate the symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CFS is described as a condition which causes a person to experience extreme fatigue – not just the simple type where the feeling of tiredness can be relieved after one takes a rest. Chronic fatigue syndrome lasts for a long time, and it starts to limit a person’s ability to do ordinary activities of daily living. When this happens, the quality of life of the individual is already affected.

The cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is still unknown.  Although it is most commonly associated with women ages 40 to 50 years old, anybody can still have CFS. Because the cause is unknown, cure is not available too.  The primary goal of treatment though, is to help alleviate the symptoms linked to CFS. Although pharmaceutical agents are available to deal with the symptoms, it is emphasized that there are other natural means to help ease pain, promote sleep, and relieve anxiety.

The following are the most common symptoms found in people diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome:

  • Tenderness in the lymph nodes (pain upon palpation)
  • Sore throat
  • Sleep problems
  • Arthralgia (painful joints)
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty in concentration
  • Muscle pain
  • Poor memory

An Assessment of the Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

In an attempt to determine the health benefits of eating dark chocolates for people with chronic fatigue syndrome, researchers coming from England’s University of Hull conducted a double-blind, randomized, pilot crossover small-scale study involving ten individuals. Four women and four men, whose mean age was 52 years, participated in the study. All of the participants were diagnosed to have chronic fatigue syndrome, as measured with the use of the Chalder Fatigue Scale.

The study lasted for eight weeks and within that period, the participants were divided into two groups.  One group received polyphenol-rich chocolate, and the other group received iso-calorific chocolate. The participants were asked to eat a 15 gram chocolate bar, which contains 85 percent of cocoa, three times each day.  No changes in their daily diet were made. After a two-week break, the participants were asked to substitute their chocolate with one that does not contain cocoa, but still tasted the same.  Nestlé PTC York in the United Kingdom provided the chocolates used in the study.

What the Study Revealed

The results of the study indicated that participants who consumed polyphenol-rich dark chocolate exhibited improvement of symptoms of CFS as compared to those who received chocolate with low polyphenol levels. Once again, the fatigue levels of the participants were measured using the Chalder Fatigue Scale where the polyphenol-rich intervention brought an improvement in scores, while the low polyphenol intervention’s scores deteriorated.

It was also noted that none of the participants gained extra weight despite eating an extra of 245 calories per day for a period of eight weeks.

The authors of the study, led by Professor Steve Atkin from Hull York Medical School, concluded that the consumption of 15 grams of high cocoa polyphenol-rich chocolate for three times a day over an eight-week period exerts favourable effect when it comes to improving the residual function and fatigue levels in subjects diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, as compared to consuming chocolate with low polyphenol and low cocoa content.

The results of the study were published in the Nutrition Journal.

The Explanation

The credit is given to flavanols – natural compounds that are abundantly found in dark chocolate. Medical experts have speculated that the health benefits that a person obtains from eating dark chocolate is due to the flavanols action of shielding, or protecting, the cells from the damage brought about by oxidative stress.

However, the authors of the study issued a word of caution:  do things in moderation.  Just because eating dark chocolate is said to bring health benefits does not mean one should gorge on chocolate.  The authors believe that there is a need to conduct more research studies – on a larger scale – in order to fully substantiate their findings and before chocolate is prescribed as a part of the diet plan of people with chronic fatigue syndrome.

The Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

  • Chocolate comes from cacao which is said to contain agents that help fight off bacteria. So naturally, the presence of these antibacterial agents in cacao will help fight the development of tooth decay.  You may raise your eyebrows on this one which is perfectly understandable.  After all, your dentist must have told you to avoid eating chocolates.  What your dentist is actually referring to are milk chocolates.  Milk chocolates contain very high amounts of sugar, and this is the cause of tooth decay.  Keep this in mind:  the higher the cacao content of the chocolate, the more benefits it gives.
  • Chocolates are good for the heart.  A study conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania revealed that eating dark chocolates on a regular basis was associated with a lowered risk of atherosclerosis, hospitalization due to heart diseases and untimely death.
  • Dark chocolate contains carbohydrates which produces an increase in the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonins are neurotransmitters that directly affect the mood of a person.  Increased levels of serotonin result to a better sense of well-being.
  • The antioxidants in dark chocolate helps the body fight off free-radicals.  Free-radicals can cause harm by damaging the cells and it also causes premature aging.
  • The cocoa butter found in dark chocolate contains the mono-unsaturated fat oleic acid which helps raise the levels of HDL, or good cholesterol.
  • Flavonoids help maintain healthy blood vessels, thereby keeping blood pressure at bay
  • Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

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