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Chocolate-Derived Chemical
Could Suppress Cough



LONDON (Reuters Health) - A chemical found in cocoa and chocolate appears to suppress coughs and could potentially be developed into an effective treatment, according to the results of a small new study.

However, don't use the findings as an excuse to hit the candy store the next time you feel a cold coming on. The researchers note that a person would have to consume up to 25 candy bars to achieve the dose of the substance used in the study.

Researchers at the National Heart and Lung Institute in London did discover that the chemical, theobromine, was more effective than codeine, which is used in pharmacy cough remedies.

"It's too early to advise people suffering from cough to treat themselves with chocolate," Dr. John Harvey, chairman of the Communications Committee of the British Thoracic Society (BTS), said in a statement.

"But the number of people with undiagnosed chronic cough is increasing in this country and more effective treatments are needed. So I hope this research provides a clue for future treatments," Harvey said.

The findings were unveiled at the recent BTS winter meeting in London. The research team, led by Dr. Omar Sharif Usmani, recruited 10 healthy nonsmokers and exposed them to three different forms of treatment--1000 milligrams (mg) of theobromine, 60 mg of codeine, or an inactive placebo.

Two hours after taking each one separately, volunteers were then given capsaicin, a cough-inducing substance that puts the "hot" in hot peppers and is routinely used in cough medicine research.

The researchers wanted to measure how much capsaicin it took to induce five coughs. Their results showed that although there was little difference between the codeine and placebo, there was an increase in the amount of capsaicin needed when patients took the theobromine.

It's not clear why the compound might suppress coughs. But theories put forward by the research team include the possibility that it may have an affect on receptors for adenosine, a molecule that plays an important role in regulating the body's nervous systems. Another suggestion is that it inhibits the effects of phosphodiesterase, an enzyme that plays a wide role in many cellular processes.

Usmani said further studies of the effectiveness of theobromine are under way and although it is too early to recommend its use as a medicine, the findings highlight doubts over the effectiveness of existing remedies.

"Over-the-counter sales for acute cough medicines currently reach approximately 100 million a year in the UK--money that is being spent on remedies where evidence regarding their effectiveness is inconclusive," he said in the statement.

The study was not funded by any commercial companies.


Reference Source 89

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