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Bangor runner with MS keen to try power of hot chocolate

Healthy lifestyle: Ivan Prue
Healthy lifestyle: Ivan Prue

By Jane Kirby

A Co Down runner living with multiple sclerosis (MS) has welcomed the news that hot chocolate could be a powerful weapon in tackling the fatigue associated with the condition.

Experts found people given a cocoa drink rich in flavonoids reported less fatigue and pain than those given another drink.

The MS Society funded the small six-week study, which examined the effects of cocoa flavonoids - compounds known for their antioxidant properties.

Researchers concluded that flavonoids could be effective in MS because they help reduce inflammation in the body.

Ivan Prue, from Bangor, was diagnosed with MS in 2009. Ivan is a regular runner, an event ambassador for parkrun and a coach at Ward Park Runners.

Alongside drug treatment, Ivan maintains a healthy lifestyle and believes his exercise, diet and lifestyle choices help him manage his MS symptoms.

"Everyone's MS is different and I am fortunate to still be running so with my lifestyle I try to make good choices," he said.

"I don't cut out foods. For me, a balanced diet with everything in moderation helps me train and to manage my MS. It also means I still get plenty of enjoyment from food.

"If this puts hot chocolate on the medicinal list, I certainly won't complain. Trying certainly won't be a hardship."

The new study, published online in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, split 40 people recently diagnosed with MS and fatigue into two groups. The first were told to drink a cup of either high-flavonoid cocoa powder mixed with heated rice milk every day for six weeks, or a low-flavonoid version for the same duration.

Participants were told to wait 30 minutes before taking any medication or eating or drinking anything else, but otherwise they could stick to their usual diet.

Fatigue levels were assessed and those on the drinks rated their fatigue on a scale of one to 10, at 10am, 3pm and 8pm every day. Activity levels were also measured with a pedometer.

After six weeks, there was a small improvement in fatigue in 11 of those drinking the high-flavonoid cocoa compared with eight of those drinking the low-flavonoid, researchers found.

Those drinking the high-flavonoid cocoa were also able to walk further than those in the other group during a six-minute walking test. Pain levels also seemed to be lower in those on the high-flavonoid drink.

Study leader Dr Shelly Coe, senior lecturer in nutrition at Oxford Brookes University, said: "This work is still in its early stages, but with more data we hope to find a dietary approach that could help people with MS manage their symptoms, cheaply and safely."

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