Put down that cough syrup and pick up a pineapple! Yes, it really could be that simple – or so certain alternative medicine aficionados would have you believe. Pineapples contain bromelain – an active ingredient that fruit lovers claim is ‘up to five times’ as effective as over-the-counter syrup in fighting a troublesome cough. Let’s find out how true this really is…
Here’s the science behind the claims: bromelain is a ‘protease’, an enzyme that serves to break down protein molecules (much like the enzymes in our gut that aid digestion). While nobody can doubt the effectiveness of bromelain in tenderising steak (hence the popularity of steak and pineapple sandwiches) its medical usefulness is somewhat questionable.
Scientists have done a lot of work on the power of proteases, and have investigated their ability to combat everything from blood clots to cancer. There is research to suggest that bromelain can dampen down the body’s immune response to infection, potentially making them work like an anti-inflammatory medicine. Given that most cough symptoms are caused by an inflammation of the throat, it is feasible that bromelain could help a cough – but direct evidence for pineapple soothing throaty soreness is tenuous at best.
That said, there is no firm evidence to suggest that cough syrup does any good either. Several studies have shown that over-the-counter cough medicines are actually no more effective than a placebo in curing a tickly throat. The overall medical consensus is that there is no strong evidence either for or against the use of these popular medicines. Of course, lots of people still like to try them.
Therefore, the claim that pineapples are five times more effective than cough syrups (which don’t actually work) seems pretty absurd.
So what can we use to combat a cough? Even though it is such a common ailment, pharmaceutical companies are still looking for an effective cure. All manner of weird and wonderful remedies have been suggested in the past, the most extreme of which must be the seemingly innocuous poppy extract patented by a German chemical company as a cough remedy in 1898. Its name may be familiar to you… Heroin.
So have as much pineapple as you want, but it’s best that you steer clear of the poppies.
Answer by Nick Waszkowycz
Question sent from Hannah Tucker via Facebook
“Pineapples can be up to five times as effective as cough syrup”: http://preventdisease.com/news/14/040314_Pineapple-Juice-5-Times-More-Effective-Than-Cough-Syrup.shtml
Bromelain treatment may “interfere with the body’s immune response to infection”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2516972/ Cough syrups just as effective as placebo:
Image source: Jessica Lucia, on Flickr