If you read the study (https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/7/1/e014112), you will see they did not use chocolate in the way we think! The study actually uses a cough syrup called Unicough – a popular UK product combining pharmaceutical ingredients with cocoa flavour.

Medical ingredients: diphenhydramine hydrochloride, ammonium chloride, levomenthol.
Non-active ingredients: Sucrose, Cocoa flavour, Glycerol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Citrate, Preservatives (E218, E215, E216 and Butyl hydroxybenzoate), and Water.

The goal of the study was to determine whether Unicough decreased cough severity better than Simple Linctus – a pharmaceutical cough syrup made with citric acid monohydrate. Although Unicough decreased cough frequency, it was not statistically significant at reducing cough severity (p=0.18). What does this science lingo mean? There was some improvement of the cough, but not enough to absolutely conclude it is better.

NOW, let’s get to the good stuff.

Chocolate, made with cocoa, contains a plant nutrient (phytonutrient) called theobromine. Theobromine acts as a bronchodilator, demulcent, and also inhibits the inappropriate firing of the vagus nerve. This continuous firing action is what causes the reocurring cough. Bronchodilators open up the airways for improved airflow and breathing, while demulcents relieve inflammation and irritation by producing a mucous film in the throat, therefore soothing a cough.

So yes, there is truth to this affect but here’s why I disagree turning to a chocolate bar. Studies use 600-1000mg of theobromine to suppress a cough. Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate bar (41g) is 45% cocoa, and has 185 mg theobromine per bar. You would need to eat 3.5-6 bars per day! At first, it may be a welcome excuse to eat that much, but you’ll reconsider knowing that one bar contains 21 grams of sugar. That equals 73.5-126 grams or 18-31.5 teaspoons of sugar to suppress a cough. Did you know that 100 grams of sugar suppresses the immune system for 5 hours or more! Now your white blood cells (immune cells) are approximately 40% less effective at fighting off the bug that lead to the cough in the first place. Even more, 100 grams of sugar contains 387 calories. I would have to walk 1.5-2 hours to burn that off. That’s a lot of walking to do when I’m sick!

If you want to kick that cough, there are MUCH better ways to do so naturally. A Naturopathic Doctor can recommend safe and effective therapies to help boost your immune system and overcome your cold or flu faster!

Dr. Stephanie Liebrecht, BSc, ND
Naturopathic Doctor