Theobromine is one of the reasons why chocolate is so delightful and so stimulating. But despite being remarkably similar in composition to caffeine, theobromine’s ‘stimulation’ is different. Unlike other alkaloids, theobromine is not addictive, but at the same time, it does wonders for your heart, blood pressure and general mood.

At  very high doses, theobromine has been blamed for sweating, trembling and severe headaches in some cases. But it’s very hard to find large studies on this, and even anecdotal evidence here seems very rare. However, there are some suggestions that for some people, over indulging in chocolate in massive binges may also cause heartburn as theobromine causes the oesophageal sphincter to relax and so some stomach acids go “the wrong way”.

More importantly for dogs and cats, theobromine is far more dangerous because they metabolize it far slower than humans as humans metabolize theobromine over 5-8 hours versus three to five times this for dogs.  If you are one of those people who believes that dark chocolate etc. causes you headaches, it may well be that you are allergic to PEA or phenylethylamine, which is another chemical in cocoa and in chocolate


Caffeine, thanks to its third methyl group, can cross the blood-brain barrier and bind to adenosine receptors. Caffeine blocks these receptors, stopping one feeling drowsy and boosting adrenaline. This is why caffeine “peps” one up; making one more alert and perkier. 

Theobromine does not cross the blood-brain barrier, it doesn’t boost adrenaline production or block adenosine reactors. 


As theobromine is absorbed in our bodies it stimulates the release of nitric oxide, and these in turn reduce enzymes in the blood that constrict our blood vessels. And as a consequence, theobromine causes our blood pressure to decline.


At the same time, theobromine interacts with enzymes in our heart and lungs promoting vasodilation and bronchodilation. And this is one reason why dark chocolate is often recommended to help asthmatics breathe more easily.

Theobromine and caffeine are also diuretics Many of the benefits that you get from theobromine you also get from caffeine as the body breaks down caffeine into theobromine. But only 10-15% of caffeine is converted to theobromine, while the majority is converted into paraxanthine as well as theophylline.


Theobromine is found in a number of plants and fruits; most notably in cocoa and chocolate, and also in tea (Camellia sinensis), carob, guarana, and yerba mate. Caffeine is also found in a number of plants and fruits; in particular coffee, and also trace elements of caffeine are in cocoa and chocolate. Chemically these two alkaloids are remarkably similar. Theobromine is technically C7H8N4O2. And caffeine is C8H10N4O2. Caffeine contains one more ‘methyl group’ than theobromine.  


To get theobromine, eat some dark craft chocolate, consume cocoa powder  or drink craft drinking chocolate or eat cocoa nibs. 

Source: Cocoarunners





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