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Thursday, 5 December, 2002, 00:10 GMT
Chocolate 'could cure coughs'
Chocolate
Experts warn against eating lots of chocolate if you have a cough
Chocolate could provide the key for a new kind of cough medicine.

But experts say patients should not take the news as a licence to eat lots of chocolate bars if they are sick.

A chemical in chocolate called theobromine has been shown to be effective in preventing cough in early tests.

The research was presented to the British Thoracic Society's (BTS) winter meeting in London.


It is too early to advise people suffering from coughs to treat themselves with chocolate!

Dr John Harvey, BTS

A cough was artificially provoked in 10 healthy non-smokers.

Researchers at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London gave them theobromine, followed by capsaicin, a cough stimulant based on chilli peppers.

They compared theobromine to a dummy version, which would have no effect, and codeine, which is used in traditional cough remedies.

Theobromine was the most effective in treating cough.

Experts say more research is needed into new cough treatments, particularly for persistent cough.

Around 100m is spent each year on cough medicines in the UK.

The researchers plan to carry out more studies into the effectiveness of theobromine for patients who are suffering from a cough after a cold or flu.

But they say it is too soon to say theobromine can definitely be used to effectively treat cough.

Dr Omar Sharif Usmani, respiratory physician at the National Heart and Lung Institute and member of the BTS, who led the research, told BBC News Online it was not clear if theobromine suppressed the action of coughing or cleared mucus from the lungs.

"We don't know how this drug works, but it gives us an insight into possible applications and treatments."

But he added: "If it does work, it will just be a white tablet that is tasteless, and colourless - it will not be chocolate flavoured."

Dr John Harvey, chairman of the BTS communications committee, said: "The number of people with undiagnosed chronic cough is increasing in this country and more effective treatments are needed.

"The condition can be really distressing and so I hope this research provides a clue for future treatments."

But he added: "It is too early to advise people suffering from coughs to treat themselves with chocolate!"

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