Chocolate is an unconventional immune booster for reasons beyond the obvious: that it enhances our mood, thus our attitude, thus our health.
Chocolate also contains polyphenols. These lovely little molecules have antioxidant properties and immunoregulatory effects. What's more, current science is starting to show that chocolate contains certain cough-suppressant qualities because of another sweet compound called theobromine.
To find out why you should reach for chocolate the next time you cough,
During these dark days of winter, coughs are one of the most common ailments for which people seek treatment. Many of my patients complain of coughs year-round, in fact. While I can always treat a cough with Chinese Medicine and herbal formulas, I'm a big fan of recommending that my clients supplement with a more yummy treatment.
What science says about polyphenols:
Studies evaluating the antioxidant effects of chocolate — specifically the effects of cacao liquor polyphenol (CLP) — on human immune function in vitro have proven that "CLP inhibits hydrogen peroxide and superoxide anion production, as well as inhibiting mitogen-induced proliferation of T cells and polyclonal Ig production by B cells."
What does all this jargon mean? Well, in a nutshell, it means that CLP has multiple immunoregulatory effects.
(Source: "Polyphenols in Chocolate, Which Have Antioxidant Activity, Modulate Immune Functions in Humans in Vitro," Sanbongi, Chiaki, et al, Cellular Immunology, 1997;177:129-136)
What science says about theobromine:
Recent research has shown that "theobromine, a methylxanthine alkaloid derivative predominant in cocoa, [is] a novel and promising therapy for the treatment of cough." This is because of its "unique antitussive effect" — meaning that it eases coughing.
Unlike conventional morphine-based cough medicines, theobromine has not been proven to have major side effects that would deter physicians from recommending it as a cough remedy. Theobromine is also preferable to codeine-based cough suppressants because it has no adverse effects on the cardiovascular or central nervous systems.
(Source: The FASEB Journal express article 10.1096/fj.04-1990fje. Published online November 17, 2004; "Theobromine inhibits sensory nerve activation and cough"; by Omar S. Usmani, Maria G. Belvisi, Hema J. Patel, Natascia Crispino, Mark A. Birrell, Márta Korbonits, Dezs! Korbonits, and Peter J. Barnes)
Why chocolate? (Like you need another reason)
Chocolate is a non-synthetic plant-derived substance with naturally occurring medicinal properties. When purchased from fair trade sources, its use supports global economy in a healthy way.
And most importantly, chocolate is delicious. Like any food or medication, don't overdo it. But it's nice to know that something we already love is, in fact, good for us!
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Source: Flickr User EverJean