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article imageCocoa could assist with walking pain caused by artery disease

By Tim Sandle     Feb 25, 2020 in Health
A new study, looking at a form of leg weakening, finds that a flavanol-rich cocoa beverage can lead to improvements in walking. This relates to patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD).
The research examined the consumption of a cocoa beverage, taken by patients three times daily over the course of six months. In a phase II randomized study, patients who consumed the flavanol-rich beverage demonstrated improvements over a 6-minute walking distance. In the trial, the cocoa drink was compared to a placebo.
There are a number of different causes of weak legs. As examples, Dr. Anthony Dugarte, writing for eMedihealth, outlines a series of common and neurological causes. Common causes include the aftereffects of strenuous physical activity, poor sleeping, or fatigue. Other reasons include nutritional deficiency, trauma, aging, and issues affecting circulation. Whereas the more specialist neurological conditions include functional limb weakness, multiple sclerosis, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorder, and Guillain-Barré syndrome, among other conditions.
With the new study, the scale of the experiment was relatively small, involving 44 patients. The aim was to determine whether initial results would lead to further research on a larger scale. The study was conducted at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.
The patients in the study were aged over 60 years and were diagnosed with peripheral artery disease. Examples of the neurological conditions that can cause the disease include Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorder, Guillain-Barré syndrome, and diabetic neuropathy. With the disease, there is a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries restricts blood supply to leg muscles. Pain is experienced when walking, which is relieved by resting.
By consuming the cocoa drink, every day over six months, the patients were able to walk up to 42.6 meters over the course of six minutes. This represented a considerable improvement across the course of the study and there was a far superior performance, in relation to walking ability, blood flow and muscle strength with the test group compared to the patients given a placebo (a non-cocoa based beverage).
Commenting on the research, Dr. Mary McDermott, who led the study, said: “Few therapies are available for improving walking performance in people with PAD…While we expected the improvements in walking, we were particularly pleased to see that cocoa treatment was also associated with increased capillary density, limb perfusion, mitochondrial activity, and an additional measure of overall skeletal muscle health”
The researcher thinks that the flavonoids help to improve mitochondrial health (mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell, turning food to energy). Specifically, epicatechin (a flavanol component) increases mitochondrial activity in the calves of patients.
The cocoa drink was made from 15 grams of cocoa with 75 milligrams of epicatechin. The walking performance of each study participant was assessed at the start of the study and at six months. As well as the actual walking test, blood flow was assessed by using magnetic resonance imaging and muscle health was examined via a calf muscle biopsy.
The research has been published in the journal Circulation Research and the study is titled “Cocoa to Improve Walking Performance in Older People With Peripheral Artery Disease: The Cocoa-Pad Pilot Randomized Clinical Trial.”
More about walking disease, Walking, Diabetes, peripheral artery disease
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