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,"
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
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