A previous questionnaire study by the authors of the present study suggested that those with Parkinson’s disease consumed more chocolate than average, which raised prospects that the tasty treat could improve the motor function of sufferers.
However, Alexander Storch et al. found in a study available online ahead of publication in the Journal of Neurology that no link existed.
“Our results do not support the hypothesis that dark chocolate or its cocoa ingredients improve motor function in Parkinson’s disease as a feasible explanation for increased chocolate consumption,” said the study.
Clinical trials were conducted at the Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders at Dresden University in Germany in which 26 Parkinson’s sufferers were given either 200g of dark chocolate or 200g of white chocolate without any cacao.
The white chocolate was used as a comparator.
The researchers assessed UPDRS motor scores and collected blood samples, but found no significant improvement to motor function when dark chocolate was consumed.
Why do those with Parkinson’s consume more?
The study said that the reason for increased chocolate consumption among those with Parkinson’s was “largely enigmatic”.
“It might however be a consequence of the high content of caffeine analogues and/ or various biogenic amines within the cacao ingredient with their assumed antiparkinsonian effect,” it said.
The researchers added that chocolate may simply give transient “comforting” benefits.
Chocolate and health
Chocolate and in particular dark varieties with high cocoa content, have been increasingly linked to health benefits in recent years.
Mars, for example, has funded a series of research projects to establish links between cocoa flavanols in chocolate and cardiovascular health.
In other recent studies, Nogueira et al. suggested that epicatechin found in chocolate could improve mitochondria in mice, while Katz et al. at Yale University conducted a study that linked chocolate intake to improved blood pressure and better cardiovascular health.
Journal of Neurology DOI: 10.1007/s00415-012-6527-1
‘Comparison of chocolate to cacao-free white chocolate in Parkinson’s disease: a single-dose, investigator-blinded, placebo-controlled, crossover trial’
Authors: Martin Wolz, Christine Schleiffer, Lisa Klingelhöfer, Christine Schneider, Florian Proft, Uta Schwanebeck, Heinz Reichmann, Peter Riederer and Alexander Storch