Researchers from the University of Hull and the Hull York Medical School have found dark chocolate has a significant effect on reducing the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). The research, published in Nutrition Journal, found that polyphenol rich chocolate eases the condition, with subjects noting significant improvements to their well-being. Chocolate is known to increase neurotransmitters like phenyl ethylamine, serotonin, and anandamide in the brain, but this is the first time that polyphenol rich chocolate in people with CFS has been studied.
Above: Professor Steve Atkin.
Subjects with CFS having severe fatigue of at least 10 out of 11 on Chalder Fatigue Scale were enrolled on the pilot study. Participants were given one of two types of chocolate, one with a high cocoa content and the other without.
Over an eight week period the volunteers consumed one type of chocolate followed by a two week wash out period and then another eight weeks of eating the other variety. The dark chocolate contained 85% cocoa solids with the alternative containing none. Each individual bar weighed 15g with each volunteer expected to eat three per day, and also told not to consume more or make changes to their diet.
Researchers also noted the weight of subject did not significantly alter despite consuming an extra 245 calories per day for two months.
Professor Steve Atkin who led the study says: “The significance of the results is particularly surprising because of the small number of subjects in the study. A further study is needed to see what the effects would be on a larger group of people, but this is potentially very encouraging news for those who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.”
This latest finding follows recent research also carried out at the University of Hull and the Hull York Medical School where dark chocolate was found to help reduce the risk of heart attacks in people with Type 2 diabetes by increasing the amount of good cholesterol in the blood stream.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) was originally defined in 1988 when the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the US brought together a number of researchers who had been investigating a strange syndrome characterized by overwhelming fatigue. This definition however was reviewed by a panel of international experts in 1994 and subsequently revised.
CFS is very difficult to diagnose because the main symptom of fatigue is present in so many other illnesses. However, once other illnesses have been ruled out through laboratory tests and physical examination, a diagnosis of CFS may be given if the following criteria are met:
Clinically evaluated, unexplained persistent or relapsing chronic fatigue that is of new or definite onset (i.e., not lifelong), is not the result of ongoing exertion, is not substantially alleviated by rest, and results in substantial reduction in previous levels of occupational, educational, social, or personal activities.The concurrent occurrence of four or more of the following symptoms: substantial impairment in short-term memory or concentration; sore throat; tender lymph nodes; muscle pain; multi-joint pain without swelling or redness; headaches of a new type, pattern, or severity; unrefreshing sleep; and post-exertional malaise lasting more than 24 hours. These symptoms must have persisted or recurred during 6 or more consecutive months of illness and must not have predated the fatigue.
The full text of the revised definition can be found at the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/cfs/about/definition/index.htm
Symptoms and General Information
Obviously, as is implied by the various names, fatigue is the major symptom in CFS. People often have the misconception that this is the only symptom and hence they assume that sufferers simply like to complain about the normal tiredness that everyone experiences after a day at work etc. CFS is actually much more than fatigue, and the fatigue experienced is a lot more severe than simple tiredness. The following is a list of the major symptoms of CFS.
- Exercise Intolerance
- Severe Malaise
- Muscle and Joint Aches
- Cognitive Dysfunction
- Chronic Headache
- Balance Disturbance
- Recurrent Sore Throat
- Mood and Sleep Disturbances
- Abdominal Pain/Digestive Disturbances
- Sensitivity to Light and/or Sound
- Visual Disturbances
- Skin Sensitivity
The cause, or causes of ME/CFS are still not clear. There are a number of theories that have been proposed, the main ones propose the following factors as the cause or causes of the illness:
- Viral Infection
- Mycoplasma Infection
- Immune or Endocrine Dysfunction
- Autonomic Nervous System Dysfunction
- Environmental Toxins
- Genetic Factors
- Candida Overgrowth
- Gut Dysbiosis
- Heavy Metal Sensitivity
- Emotional Stress or Trauma
There may be a large number of abnormalities in multiple body systems in CFS patients. These abnormalities centre around the nervous, endocrine and immune systems and the way these interact with each other. Although these abnormalities have been identified it is still unclear which are causes and which are effects. New research will hopefully shed more light on this but until then doctors who are seeing the best results with patients seem to be those who take a multifactorial approach and try to correct as many of the abnormalities discussed as they possibly can, using currently available treatments.