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The response to theobromine, as measured by behavioural measures, is less than that to caffeine. In fact, based on studies with animals, some have concluded that it is behaviourally inert (6668). However, others have reported a modest impact on the behaviour of mice (69), rats (70) and cats (71), although earlier reviews found no evidence that theobromine has a behavioural influence in humans (72, 73).
Studies of drug discrimination are amongst the most sensitive methods for establishing subtle drug effects. In rats trained to discriminate 32 mg/kg caffeine from saline, theobromine at doses up to 75 mg/kg did not cause a caffeinelike response (74). In a second study, rats were trained to discriminate either 10 or 30 mg/kg caffeine from saline (75). Doses of theobromine, up to 300 mg/kg, produced at best a 50% caffeine-like response. There is little reason to suggest that theobromine accounts for craving.
Chocolate is a chemically complex substance, rich with many pharmacologically active compounds including histamine, tryptophan, serotonin, phenylethylamine and octopamine. As these are all found in higher levels in other food items, lacking the appeal of chocolate, it is improbable that they play a major part in chocolate craving. Chocolate is a major source of certain minerals including copper, magnesium and iron. A 50 g bar of plain chocolate offers 1.2 mg of iron and milk chocolate 0.8 mg. These levels compare with the US recommended daily amount of 15 mg/day for an adult female and 10 mg/day for an adult male. In a sample of young British adults, Fordy and Benton (76) found that 52% of females and 11% of males had levels of ferritin, the storage protein for iron, below the recommended level. Given the widespread instance of iron-deficiency anaemia, both in industrialized and developing countries, any source of iron is likely to be valuable. Although there is no reason to believe that an enhanced intake of iron will improve your mood if you have sufficient of the mineral, without doubt iron-deficiency anaemia is associated with feelings of lethargy and lowered mood. As one iron-containing food, amongst others, chocolate could offer a valuable source of the mineral.
Schifano and Magni (77) described a series of case studies where taking the drugs ecstasy (MDMA) was associated with a craving for chocolate. These individuals reported that bingeing on chocolate could result in the consumption of 10002000 calories per episode. They speculated that phenylethylamine, with its amphetamine-like properties, and theobromine could be useful in counteracting MDMA withdrawal. It should be remembered that as ecstasy is known to damage serotonergic mechanisms, we are likely to be dealing with a pathological
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