Could chocolate be used to treat Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s disease affects one in 500 people in the UK, with an estimated 127,000 people living with it. But a new trial is hoping to help ease sufferers' symptoms by using chocolate.
Parkinson’s is a brain condition caused by the loss of nerve cells in the part of the brain that produces dopamine, which helps with the body’s coordination. Low levels of dopamine have been linked to the shaking symptom that many people with Parkinson’s suffer from in the past.
Now scientists believe that chocolate can increase the release of dopamine thanks to phenylethylamine, which is a component of cocoa.
Researchers at Dresden University of Technology in Germany are planning an experiment where 30 patients will be given 50g of either white chocolate, which contains no cocoa, or dark chocolate which has an 85 per cent cocoa quantity, twice daily for a week. Then in the second week, they will receive the other kind, to allow the team to analyse the difference in their symptoms.
However the new trial goes against previous research carried out in India, which warned people to reduce their intake of chocolate as it is the food richest in a component linked to the disease.
The 2013 review published in the Neuroscience Bulletin by the Assam University in India said that phenylethylamine could actually be a cause of Parkinson’s, which most people start develop when they are over 50.
“As consumption of phenylethylamine enriched food items has become an addiction in modern life, our proposed mechanism is of enormous significance and impact,” the researchers said at the time. “Limited consumption of these foods is recommended.”
But the team acknowledged that their research had been carried out on rodents and needed further investigation to see whether the same effect would occur in humans.