The Preliminary Scoping Phase

That sounds quite official, doesn’t it? Day 4 of my extremely unscientific hot chocolate ‘project’. I’m calling this the preliminary scoping phase…well, it’s not a controlled experiment, is it? I’m happy that I’ve actually prepared and drank the hot choc for 4 days in a row. That’s participant engagement right there! Some observations:

Given that I really don’t have a sweet tooth, this has been less effort for me than I anticipated. Mind you, the drink I’m making is quite bitter. My husband commented that it was ‘quite messy’. No, that’s me making a mess, not the drink.

The drink is very filling. Remember, I’m making it with instant (water-based) hot chocolate and approximately 20g of high flavanol cacao (perhaps I’ll weigh it tomorrow. It’s probably slightly more than 20g, given the heapedness of my heaped tablespoon). The calorific value is approximately 171kcal per serving (that’s 107 kcal for the hot choc, 64 kcal for the cacao). Not exactly a small snack, but I’m not bothered about that, because my appetite has been quite low recently.

I’ve not been taking it at the same time every day. My primary focus has been making and drinking the drink, and I’ve managed that. Yes, it has only been 4 days, but I’m that kind of person who looks for a medal for flossing her teeth once a month ( MY DENTIST SAID THIS WAS FINE BECAUSE IT’S BETTER THAN NOTHING. Stop judging me). Good job I don’t wear a lot of make up – I’d have to chip it off every so often and my pillowcases would need bleached. I digress. 4 days in a row is a start.

Talking of which, tomorrow is my last day for a while. I’m going into hospital this week to have my gallbladder removed, because I’m middle aged, unfit, and a bit chunky. I’m such a good catch! It’s nothing to do with the MS, although the MS treatment I’m on (Lemtrada) can exacerbate already dodgy gallbladders. Ach, I wasn’t doing anything else anyway. So, now that I’ve done the preliminary scoping phase, I can start again properly when I’m on my feet again.

The lead author of the original study sent me a copy of the original research paper (Thank you very much, Dr Coe). Turns out I would not have been eligible for the original study anyway – my neurologist thinks I may have had a relapse recently (oh, but I have felt absolutely grim!), and I’ve to have an MRI and an evoked potential test to establish if this is the case. The original study – quite rightly – ruled out patients who had had a relapse within the previous 3 months.

Do I think the hot chocolate has worked at all? Well. The original study looked at fatigue and fatiguability, and I really don’t think 4 days is enough to judge. I’ve certainly felt more mentally alert and my concentration has been better in the period after consumption, allowing for about half an hour digestive transit time, but I think I’m coming out of this period of relapse/exacerbation anyway, so it’s very difficult to assess. However, I will keep going – allowing for the break later this week and next – since one of my objectives was to assess for myself how practical a single nutrient intervention might be. Nutritional interventions are, by their very nature, complex, and don’t always show an immediate effect (perhaps caffeine is a good example of an fast-acting intervention effect) Obviously, I’m not having bloods taken for this, so I have no idea whether there’s even any kind of cumulative effect on biochemistry. My only measures are of self observed Quality of Life markers, and when I’m back on my feet, I will attempt a more structured and better recorded project.

Meantime, I think I’ve done enough to be able to establish that a single mug of hot chocolate is not a miracle cure…don’t get me started on the mass media’s ‘understanding’ of health and science. That’s for another blog post 🙂

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