Chocolate Could Quiet Coughs

Posted November 23, 2004 2:36PM

An ingredient found in cocoa beans was nearly a third more effective than cough medicine in stopping persistent coughs, researchers at Imperial College London found. The ingredient, theobromine, contributes to the bitter taste of cocoa. It works by suppressing vagus nerve activity, which is responsible for coughing.


It has been scorned by health experts and slimmers alike. But the humble chocolate bar was yesterday hailed as holding the key to curing the common cough.
An estimated (pounds) 100m is spent on cough medicines in Britain each year, with often dubious results.

Codeine, considered the most effective remedy, is plagued by side effects, including drowsiness, which limit its effectiveness.

However, researchers at Imperial College London found that an ingredient found in cocoa beans was nearly a third more effective in stopping persistent coughs.

Theobromine -- a compound similar to caffeine -- is found in smaller amounts in tea and coffee, and is said to contribute towards the typically bitter taste of cocoa. The alkaloid produced no noticeable side effects in tests, so could potentially be delivered in far greater doses and without causing drowsiness.

Professor Peter Barnes, from Imperial College London and Royal Brompton Hospital, said: "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 -- writing in the online FASEB Journal -- said theobromine worked by suppressing vagus nerve activity, which is responsible for causing coughing. Unlike standard cough treatments, it caused no adverse effects on the cardiovascular or central nervous systems.

The study involved 10 healthy volunteers, who were given theobromine, codeine, or a dummy pill during a randomized trial.




© 2004 The Herald
© 2004 Sci-Tech Today.