Cocoa is a fascinating foodstuffs consumed for thousands of years and even referred to as 'The Food of the Gods'.
Cocoa actually has many health promoting properties such as:
- rich in polyphenol-flavonoids
- low in fat, sugar and salt
- can even affect brain function through neurotransmitters
Very interestingly the famous Aztec Emperor, who was born 1480, has been recorded as saying: 'The divine drink (cocoa), which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits man to walk for a whole day without food'.
Indeed, the The Badianus Codex (or The Badianus Manuscript) is an Aztec book of herbal medicine that was presented to the viceroy of New Spain's son in 1552. This book noted the use of cocoa flowers to treat fatigue.
However, at Phytaphix we are interested in science, not just stories!
Studies have reported that consumption of polyphenol-flavonoid rich cocoa improved energy, less mental and physical fatigue, improved physical function and decreased anxiety/depression in:
- young adults
- middle aged-older adults
- individuals with multiple sclerosis
- individuals with Parkinson’s disease
But what about ME?
Is cocoa an effective for the nutritional treatment of Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME)?
Researchers at the Hull York Medical School in the United Kingdom tested this exact idea:
8 weeks of polyphenol-flavonoid rich cocoa lead to significant improvements in fatigue, function, anxiety and depression in individuals with Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME).
In fact, the polyphenol-flavonoid rich cocoa worked so well that two of the 10 subjects were able to return back to work after having had ME symptoms for a 2 year period and chose to continue consuming polyphenol-flavonoid rich cocoa, even after the study ended.
However, 8 weeks of low polyphenol-flavonoid cocoa led to deteriorations in fatigue, function, anxiety and depression.
This was a small study with only 10 subjects with ME but this study had a very strong scientific design - it was a double blinded, randomised, clinical crossover study comparing polyphenol-flavonoid rich cocoa to low polyphenol-flavonoid cocoa.
This means the 10 subjects in this study either consumed polyphenol-flavonoid rich cocoa for 8 weeks, then took a 2 week break with no cocoa and then consumed low polyphenol-flavonoid cocoa for 8 weeks - or vice versa.
The cocoa products looked and tasted the exact same and had the same amount of energy (calories). The researchers even dyed the low polyphenol-flavonoid cocoa so the products looked the exact same!
In addition to cocoa, other supplements which are scientifically demonstrated to improve ME include:
Although, there is no scientific data for the following nutrients from research studies among individuals with ME, there is strong rationale that these dietary components could be beneficial:
Some supplements which have been tested in ME but failed to provide any benefit include: