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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 November, 2004, 17:22 GMT
Chocolate could be cough medicine
pieces of chocolate
Better than pills or potions?
An ingredient of chocolate could put a stop to persistent coughs and lead to new, more effective cough medicines, research suggests.

Scientists found the key ingredient, theobromine, is nearly a third more effective in stopping persistent coughs than the leading medicine codeine.

They say it produces fewer side effects than conventional treatment - and would not leave people drowsy.

The research, led by Imperial College London, is published in FASEB journal.

This discovery could be a huge step forward in treating this problem.
Professor Peter Barnes
Researcher Professor Peter Barnes said: "Coughing is a medical condition which affects most people at some point in their lives, and yet no effective treatment exists.

"While persistent coughing is not necessarily harmful it can have a major impact on quality of life, and this discovery could be a huge step forward in treating this problem."

The researchers gave 10 healthy volunteers theobromine, a placebo or codeine at different times.

They then exposed the volunteers to capsaicin, a substance used in clinical research to cause coughing.

The concentration of capsaicin required to produce a cough in those people given theobromine was around one third higher when compared with the group receiving a placebo.

When the group received codeine they needed only marginally higher levels of capsaicin to produce coughing, compared with the placebo.

Nerve activity

Theobromine works by suppressing vagus nerve activity, which is responsible for causing coughing.

The team also discovered that unlike standard cough treatments, theobromine caused no adverse effects on either the cardiovascular or central nervous systems.

Professor Maria Belvisi, who also worked on the study, said: "Not only did theobromine prove more effective than codeine, at the doses used it was found to have none of the side effects.

"Normally the effectiveness of any treatment is limited by the dosage you can give someone.

"With theobromine having no demonstrated side effects in this study it may be possible to give far bigger doses, further increasing its effectiveness.

"At the same time, theobromine may not have any of the side effects such as drowsiness. This means there will be no restrictions on when it can be taken.

"For example, people using heavy machinery or who are driving should not take codeine, but they could take theobromine."

Encouraging results

Dame Helena Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation said: "The results of this research sound very promising.

"Persistant coughing often affects lung disease patients so this could be a progressive step in terms of treating it. Also, it is encouraging to find no adverse effects.

"We would like to see more research done to fully understand the potential of these findings and would advise patients to speak to their GP before changing their medication or treating their cough with chocolate!"

Dr Richard Russell, of the British Thoracic Society, said: "Over-the-counter sales for acute cough medicines currently reach approximately 100m a year in the UK - money that is being spent on remedies, where there is no evidence that they work.

"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."

Do you agree with these findings? Could chocolate make a good cough medicine? You told us what you thought.

Will it be available on prescription? The repeat prescription costs will cripple the NHS!
Paul Churchill, Barton under Needwood, Staffordshire

There are at least 20 guinea pigs in my office who are delighted to hear this news
Jules, London
There are at least 20 guinea pigs in my office who are delighted to hear this news and would welcome the chance to become part of a more in-depth study (in the name of medical research of course).
Jules, London

Brent's comments regarding alternative medicine are interesting. I don't know what research he is talking about that shows "more and more evidence" that these treatments are effective. Most of this research is very badly designed and there are vested interests to be found in the alternative healthcare market too! Theobromine may be a good treatment for cough, but how much chocolate would you have to eat in order to get a therapeutic dose?
Michael, Belfast, N. Ireland

These findings should spread alarm amongst the chocaholic community. Will this be yet another natural remedy to be synthesised by the drug companies and restricted by the government
Tony , Broadstairs Kent

What most of these wishful thinkers are missing, is that the Theobromine is likely to be extracted from the chocolate & administered by tablet/ liquid- not the same thing at all!
Nathan, Swindon, UK

It is important to discover new medications which can solve the problem with coughing
Tomas Pastva, Teplice
I think it is good to look for new treatments. People have not found all treatment methods yet. It is important to discover new medications which can solve the problem with coughing. What is more important than our health? We should know what is good in our life. It depends on us. I think that we should support new treatments.
Tomas Pastva, Teplice Czech Republic

How times change, it wasn't that many years ago that scientists and doctors were saying that chocolate was bad for us. At least now we can eat it knowing that it is keeping us slightly healthier.
John, Southampton, UK.

I think this is extremely dangerous for obese or overweight patients as over-consumption of anything (including chocolate) is unhealthy. Although if theobromine can be separated from the calorific content of the chocolate and sold as tablets it'd probably be really effective medicine.
Raimonda, Windsor, UK

Very nice to see some decent research with quick and fast practical gains. How did they stumble on this result?
Richard Jones, Lancashire

Chocolate is the wonder cure for all ills
Mike Griggs, London, UK
As everyone knows, chocolate is the wonder cure for all ills! From a bad day at work to getting over a failed relationship, there is nothing that chocolate cannot do! You can even melt it and pour it on ice-cream if things are really bad.
Mike Griggs, London, UK

Does anyone know who the sponsors for the research are ? Are they the chocolate manufacturers ?
Nicholas Kingsley, England

All very interesting, but why are we still focusing on drugs instead of on why the number of people with chronic cough is increasing?
Stephen Tavener, London, England

Goodbye cough, hello obesity!
Judi, Canterbury, Kent

I'm a lung patient and have always wondered why I cough so little. Now I realise it must be because of the huge amounts of chocolate I consume!
Caroline, Skopje, Macedonia

I am delighted by these findings
Sarah, Shropshire, England
I am delighted by these findings - I'd much rather consume chocolate than anything medicinal and I do believe very much in chocolate as a cure for all kinds of maladies and malaises....
Sarah, Shropshire, England

Chocolate will not solve all types of cough depends on the causes of cough. If chronic cough was as a result of stomach acid reflex (GERD), chocolate will cause more cough since it relaxes the muscles of the sophex.
Mahmoud Abu-Ali, Dubai, UAE

Obviously, chocolate is good in all circumstances. Any research that legitimises its consumption and reduces guilt in chocolate users is welcome. Any research on the health benefits of almond croissants?
A.Layzell, London, UK

I always found chocolate was good when I had a cough or a tickly throat - but I always assumed this was because it was slightly sticky and therefore coated it, reducing the irritation. Also, they say it's the worst thing to eat before singing, but I always found it the best as it gives your voice a nice warm quality, and helps on notes which may otherwise grate.
Phil, Cardiff, UK

I believe that this could be true however this could mean a rise in obesity through excessive use of this remedy
Lucente, Thurston, UK

When I fractured a rib earlier this year, coughing caused great pain. I found that chocolate eased it considerably ('Galaxy' by choice) but imagined it was simply that it smoothed the bronchial tubes.
George Austin, York, UK

Women have known this for decades
Amanda Richards, Birmingham
Chocolate's the best medicine, no matter what's wrong with you - women have known this for decades!
Amanda Richards, Birmingham, UK

Why are you asking untrained members of the public to 'referee' a scientific study? How are people supposed to judge?
Jon, Cambridge, UK

Tea also contains theobromine, so perhaps they could test to see if a nice cuppa has the same effect. It would be less fattening than chocolate, and cheaper than cough medicine.
Antony King, Sittingbourne, Kent

Yes I agree that chocolate could be a good remedy for coughs. Scientists are finding more and more evidence that alternative/herbal treatments have a huge place in treating medical conditions. A lot of doctors and drug manufactures disagree with these findings mainly because there isn't any money to be made and natural products which cannot be patented. About time people put lives first before money.
Brent, Melbourne Australia

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