Got a cough? Try eating some chocolate
By Nic Fleming, Health Correspondent, The Daily Telegraph
Eating chocolate could be a better way of stopping persistent coughing than anything available from the chemist's, according to new research.
Theobromine, an ingredient of cocoa, was found to be almost a third more effective in preventing coughing than codeine - considered the best available cough medicine.
Researchers also found that it did not cause any of the potential side-effects of cough treatments, such as drowsiness, headaches or insomnia. Ten healthy volunteers were given theobromine, codeine or a placebo pill, not knowing which they were taking. They then took capsaicin, used to stimulate coughing.
Those given theobromine needed around a third more capsaicin to make them cough compared with the placebo group. When they were given codeine they needed only marginally higher levels of capsaicin to cause a cough than with the placebo.
Prof Peter Barnes, the head of respiratory medicine at Imperial College London, said: "We have very poor cough medicines. There is a need for new treatments."
An estimated £100 million is spent on cough medicines in Britain each year.
The researchers, writing in the online journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, said theobromine suppressed the activity of the vagus nerve which is responsible for causing coughing.
Prof Maria Belvisi, of Imperial College London and Royal Brompton Hospital, said: "With theobromine having no demonstrated side-effects it may be possible to give far bigger doses, further increasing its effectiveness."
Dame Helena Shovelton, the chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: "The results of this research sound very promising."
The cough cure in a chocolate bar
By David Derbyshire, Science Correspondent, The Daily Telegraph
Chocolate could hold the secret to curing ticklish coughs, according to a study due to be presented today.
Researchers have shown that a substance found naturally in cocoa beans is more effective at tackling coughs than codeine, the drug used in most traditional remedies. Sadly for chocolate lovers the experts say it takes at least 25 fingers of Kit Kat or 25 tubes of Rolos to get any benefit.
The new study looked at the effects of a chemical called theobromine found in cocoa beans. Hungarian researchers have previously shown that closely related chemicals alleviate asthma. A team led by Dr Omar Sharif Usmani, of the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College, London, recruited 10 healthy volunteers and made them cough using an extract of chilli peppers.
Theobromine was better at preventing coughing than a placebo and codeine, the team found.
'helps cut high blood pressure'
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor, The Daily Telegraph
A STUDY of a tribe of Indians who consume an average of five cups of cocoa a day has shown that chocolate may prevent high blood pressure, the world's largest general science meeting was told yesterday.
Earlier work has found a link between antioxidants in chocolate and a reduction in platelet aggregation in blood, and an increase in "good cholesterol" levels.
Now a molecular mechanism by which chocolate can help the heart may have been discovered by the inquiry into the difference between the Kuna Indians living on islands off Panama, Central America - who had a low tendency towards developing high blood pressure as they age - and Kuna who had migrated to the mainland, who do tend to develop hypertension with age.
The island dwelling Kuna had significantly higher nitrite/nitrate excretion in their urine than those on the mainland.
Consumption of cocoa rich in flavanols, a sub-group of naturally occurring substances called flavonoids, may be responsible for altering levels of nitric oxide in the body, according to preliminary research presented to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
"Nitric oxide plays such an important role in the maintenance of healthy blood pressure and, in turn, cardiovascular health," said Prof Norman Hollenberg of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, the research team leader.
"If our research results continue to support a link between consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa and nitric oxide synthesis, there could be significant implications for public health."
The rustic cocoa drunk on the islands has extremely high flavanol content, much higher than in conventional cocoa, and typical of the levels found in dark and bitter chocolate.
As a consequence of flavanols acting on an enzyme called nitric oxide synthase, the cocoa is thought to dilate blood vessels, improving kidney function and lowering blood pressure.
To test the link between nitric oxide and cocoa, Prof Hollenberg fed volunteers cocoa with either a high amount or low amount of flavanols and found responses consistent with the nitric oxide playing a role.
Dark chocolate may cut DVT risk on long flights
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor, The Daily Telegraph
PASSENGERS on long-haul flights may soon be encouraged to eat dark chocolate as well as boiled sweets.
Plain chocolate could help to prevent deep vein thrombosis, the so-called "economy class syndrome", the British Association for the Advancement of Science was told yesterday.
The potential heart health benefits of chocolate appear to be linked to cocoa flavonoids, which occur naturally.
"Eating chocolate rich in flavonoids regularly and as part of a balanced diet, can have positive cardiovascular effects, and may even contribute to a lower risk of blood clots," said Carl Keen, Professor of Nutrition and Internal Medicine at the University of California.
The effects, which are minor but significant, were equivalent to those seen after taking a baby aspirin. However, the professor stressed that people should not give up aspirin for flavonoid-rich foods because they prevented clotting by different mechanisms.
His claims come after a trial involving 25 volunteers and suggest for the first time a link between the flavonoids found in chocolate and a reduction in platelet activation and aggregation in blood, which are thought to be important risk factors in clotting.
Prof Keen reported that eating chocolate appeared to delay the onset of blood clotting - strengthening the evidence of an "aspirin-like effect".
Aspirin is used every day by many patients who are at risk of a heart attack or stroke, or developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), to help improve their blood circulation. But Prof Keen stressed that he had no data on whether chocolate could help prevent DVT and said further research was needed.
Volunteers were fed either 25 grams of chocolate pieces with a high flavonoid content, or bread as a control. The team measured the amount of time it took the platelets fully to close an opening which simulated that of a blood vessel.
For those who had been given chocolate, closure time significantly increased in the two-hour and six-hour readings, suggesting a marked reduction in platelet reactivity and the ability of blood to clot.
Studies also suggest that chocolate increases antioxidant activity in the blood, mopping up destructive chemicals called free radicals, in a similar way to fruit and vegetables, red wine and tea.
The British Heart Foundation said people would get more nutrients from eating fruit and vegetables and that chocolate was not a suitable replacement because of its high fat content.
"Advising people to eat chocolate regularly for their hearts' sake is a reckless message that people should ignore," said a spokesman.
Dr Harold Schmitz, of Mars Inc, said flavonoids were completely destroyed in the making of cocoa beverages.
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