An innovative new project, funded by the MS Society UK, has found hot chocolate could help reduce fatigue in people with MS.

Researchers at Oxford Brookes University looked at whether flavonoid-rich hot chocolate was able to provide a benefit to people with MS fatigue. 40 people took part in the trial – half drank a flavonoid-rich hot chocolate drink once a day for six weeks and the other half a low-flavonoid alternative.

They found that a daily drink of flavonoid-rich hot chocolate could have a positive long-term effect on fatigue. It is thought that the drink could also influence mood, cognitive performance, and the ability to perform certain movements. Flavonoids (a compound found in various plant-based foods, including raw cacao) are known for their high antioxidant properties, and researchers believe their positive influence on MS is because they reduce inflammation in the body.

Dark chocolate contains the most flavonoids

Hot chocolate or a chocolate bar with more than 75% dark cocoa solids will have a high flavonoid content. You can also find flavonoids in other foods, like fruit and vegetables.

The results from this feasibility trial – the first of its kind – mean researchers are one step closer to giving people with MS another way to manage their fatigue. 

Helping people with MS

 Dr Shelley Coe, Senior Lecturer in Nutrition at Oxford Brookes University, said: “I’m so excited we found what we did. MS is unpredictable and different for everyone, so we now need to know exactly how effective flavonoid-rich hot chocolate is and whether it can benefit all people with MS before it’s prescribed.

“This work is still in its early stages, but in the future and with more data we very much hope to find a treatment that could help people with MS manage their symptoms, cheaply and safely.”

A top research priority

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, Director of Research at the MS Society UK, said: “We’re driving research into more and better treatments, and it’s really encouraging to see our trial delivering positive results for people with MS.

“We know fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of MS and it can have a huge impact on quality of life, so finding more comprehensive treatments that help is one of our top research priorities.”