Theobromine side effects, cacao information and benefit by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
Feb 12 2014

Theobromine is related to caffeine, but it is a milder stimulant. It is the stimulant found in cacao or cocoa. Have you heard of carob? Carob itself does not contain any caffeine. However, it does contain traces of theobromine.

The physiological effects of methylxanthines have been known for a long time and they are mainly mediated by the so-called adenosine receptors. Caffeine and theobromine are the most abundant methylxanthines in cacao and their physiological effects are notable. Their health-promoting benefits are so remarkable that chocolate is explored as a functional food. The consequences of adenosine receptor blockade by natural compounds present in cacao/chocolate are here reviewed. Palatability and health benefits of methylxanthines, in general, and theobromine, in particular, have further contributed to sustain one of the most innocuous and pleasant habits: chocolate consumption.

Cacao with theobromine
The cacao bean, and tasty products derived from the cacao bean such as chocolate, and the beverage cacao, popular with many people worldwide, is rich in specific antioxidants, with the basic structure of catechins and epicatechin, and especially the polymers procyanidins, polyphenols similar to those found in vegetables and tea. The alkaloids theobromine and caffeine are responsible for the stimulant effect of cacao and chocolate and contribute to bitter cacao flavor.

Cacao Supplement 500 mg

Recommendations: One or two cacao capsules with breakfast

Theobromine Research
Methylxanthines are the psycho-pharmacologically active constituents of chocolate.
Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2004.
Liking, cravings and addiction for chocolate ("chocoholism") are often explained through the presence of pharmacologically active compounds. However, mere "presence" does not guarantee psycho-activity. Two double-blind, placebo-controlled studies measured the effects on cognitive performance and mood of the amounts of cocoa powder and methylxanthines found in a 50 g bar of dark chocolate. In study 1, participants ( n=20) completed a test battery once before and twice after treatment administration. Treatments included 11.6 g cocoa powder and a caffeine and theobromine combination (19 and 250 mg, respectively). Study 2 ( n=22) comprised three post-treatment test batteries and investigated the effects of "milk" and "dark" chocolate levels of these methylxanthines. The test battery consisted of a long duration simple reaction time task, a rapid visual information processing task, and a mood questionnaire. Identical improvements on the mood construct "energetic arousal" and cognitive function were found for cocoa powder and the caffeine+theobromine combination versus placebo. In chocolate, both "milk chocolate" and "dark chocolate" methylxanthine doses improved cognitive function compared with "white chocolate". The effects of white chocolate did not differ significantly from those of water. A normal portion of chocolate exhibits psychopharmacological activity. The identical profile of effects exerted by cocoa powder and its methylxanthine constituents shows this activity to be confined to the combination of caffeine and theobromine. Methylxanthines may contribute to the popularity of chocolate; however, other attributes are probably much more important in determining chocolate's special appeal and in explaining related self-reports of chocolate cravings and "chocoholism".

Theobromine, chocolate, and preeclampsia
Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is rich in a chemical called theobromine, which stimulates the heart, relaxes smooth muscle and dilates blood vessels, and has been used to treat high blood pressure, and hardening of the arteries, Dr. Elizabeth W. Triche of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut evaluated 2,29p women who delivered a single infant, and asked them about how much chocolate they consumed in their first and third trimesters. The researchers also tested levels of theobromine in infants' umbilical cord blood. Women who consumed the most chocolate and those whose infants had the highest concentration of theobromine in their cord blood were the least likely to develop preeclampsia. Women in the highest quarter for cord blood theobromine were 69 percent less likely to develop the complication than those in the lowest quarter. Theobromine could improve circulation within the placenta while blocking oxidative stress, or it could also be a stand-in for other beneficial chemicals found in chocolate. Epidemiology, 2008.

Questions
Q. Theobromine was recommended for a persistent cough which the first month made me lose 12 lbs. from my perfect weight of 120 lbs. Been coughing for 3 months. Doctor's complete physical claims all is normal! Lungs clear.
Any suggestions on regaining that weight?
   A. We are not aware of theobromine being effective for persistent cough.

I discovered by accident that a drink of hot cocoa allows my aging male body to maintain an erection longer. Researching the possible reason suggested it was due to the theobromine content. I purchased some capsules of 99% pure theobromine. Two of these 300 mg capsules provided the same benefit as cocoa. It works within a few hours of ingestion and lasts up to 12 hours, depending on how much is taken. Larger doses improve the duration but not the magnitude of the effect.
    Interesting. Thanks for sharing this with us and keep us updated on any further benefits or side effects.