Randomised controlled trial combining vitamin E-functionalised chocolate with physical exercise to reduce the risk of protein-energy malnutrition in predementia aged people: study protocol for Choko-Age

BMJ Open. 2023 Dec 22;13(12):e072291. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2023-072291.


Objective: Protein-energy malnutrition and the subsequent muscle wasting (sarcopenia) are common ageing complications. It is knowing to be also associated with dementia. Our programme will test the cytoprotective functions of vitamin E combined with the cortisol-lowering effect of chocolate polyphenols (PP), in combination with muscle anabolic effect of adequate dietary protein intake and physical exercise to prevent the age-dependent decline of muscle mass and its key underpinning mechanisms including mitochondrial function, and nutrient metabolism in muscle in the elderly.

Methods and analysis: In 2020, a 6-month double-blind randomised controlled trial in 75 predementia older people was launched to prevent muscle mass loss, in respond to the 'Joint Programming Initiative A healthy diet for a healthy life'. In the run-in phase, participants will be stabilised on a protein-rich diet (0.9-1.0 g protein/kg ideal body weight/day) and physical exercise programme (high-intensity interval training specifically developed for these subjects). Subsequently, they will be randomised into three groups (1:1:1). The study arms will have a similar isocaloric diet and follow a similar physical exercise programme. Control group (n=25) will maintain the baseline diet; intervention groups will consume either 30 g/day of dark chocolate containing 500 mg total PP (corresponding to 60 mg epicatechin) and 100 mg vitamin E (as RRR-alpha-tocopherol) (n=25); or the high polyphenol chocolate without additional vitamin E (n=25). Muscle mass will be the primary endpoint. Other outcomes are neurocognitive status and previously identified biomolecular indices of frailty in predementia patients. Muscle biopsies will be collected to assess myocyte contraction and mitochondrial metabolism. Blood and plasma samples will be analysed for laboratory endpoints including nutrition metabolism and omics.

Ethics and dissemination: All the ethical and regulatory approvals have been obtained by the ethical committees of the Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria Integrata of Verona with respect to scientific content and compliance with applicable research and human subjects' regulation. Given the broader interest of the society toward undernutrition in the elderly, we identify four main target audiences for our research activity: national and local health systems, both internal and external to the project; targeted population (the elderly); general public; and academia. These activities include scientific workshops, public health awareness campaigns, project dedicated website and publication is scientific peer-review journals.

Trial registration number: NCT05343611.

Keywords: Aged; Dementia; Musculoskeletal disorders; NUTRITION & DIETETICS; Neuromuscular disease.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial Protocol
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Chocolate*
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Protein-Energy Malnutrition*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Vitamin E / therapeutic use


  • Dietary Proteins
  • Vitamin E

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT05343611