A double-blind provocative study
of chocolate as a trigger of headache

Marcus DA, Scharff L, Turk D, Gourley LM
University of Pittsburgh,
Pain Evaluation and Treatment Institute,
PA 15213, USA.
Cephalalgia 1997 Dec; 17(8):855-62; discussion 800


A provocative double-blind study of headache was performed using chocolate as the active agent and carob as the placebo. The chocolate and carob samples were formulated to duplicate products used in an earlier study (1) in which strong differential effects between the ability of chocolate and carob to trigger headache in migraine were shown. Sixty-three women with chronic headache (50% migraine, 37.5% tension-type, 12.5% combined migraine and tension-type) participated in the study. After 2 weeks of following a diet that restricted vasoactive amine-rich foods, each subject underwent double-blinded provocative trials with two samples of chocolate and two of carob presented in random order. Diaries were maintained by the subjects throughout the study, monitoring diet and headache. The results demonstrated that chocolate was not more likely to provoke headache than was carob in any of the headache diagnostic groups (chi2(2)=0.36, p=0.83). Interestingly, these results were independent of subjects' beliefs regarding the role of chocolate in the instigation of headache (chi2(1)=0.73, p=0.39). Headache diagnosis and the concomitant use of additional vasoactive amine-containing foods were also not associated with chocolate acting as a headache trigger. Thus, contrary to the commonly held belief of patients and physicians, chocolate does not appear to play a significant role in triggering headaches in typical migraine, tension-type, or combined headache sufferers.

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