AN INGREDIENT in chocolate could be used to stop persistent coughs and lead to more effective medicines.
The study found that theobromine, a derivative found in cocoa, was nearly a third more effective in stopping persistent coughs compared to codeine, which is currently considered the best cough medicine.
The researchers from Imperial College London said the discovery could lead to more effective treatments for coughs. An estimated 100 million is spent on cough medicines in the UK each year.
The study, which also involved London’s Royal Brompton and St Bartholomew’s hospitals, involved 10 volunteers who were either given theobromine, codeine or a dummy pill during the randomised trial.
Researchers then measured levels of capsaicin, which is used in research to cause coughing and is an indicator to test the effectiveness of medicines. The team found that when the volunteers were given theobromine, the concentration of capsaicin needed to produce a cough was about a third higher when compared to the placebo group.
When they were given codeine they needed only marginally higher levels of capsaicin to cause a cough compared with the placebo.
Prof Peter Barnes, from Imperial College London and Royal Brompton Hospital, said: "Persistent coughing can have a major impact on quality of life, and this discovery could be a huge step forward in treating this problem."