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However, the physiological effects from theobromine are generally weak to moderate in strength. In addition, the physiological effects of the methylxanthines are greatly reduced when consumed as constituents of cocoa products compared to pure compounds or solutions (25). The difference is partially attributed to reduced gastrointestinal absorption of methylxanthines due to the polyphenol or fat content. As a result of these factors, consumption of cocoa and chocolate foods does not result in any noticeable physiological effects in the majority of individuals.

Summary

The physiological effects of the methylxanthines are widely recognized although the mechanisms are not completely understood. Caffeine exerts its strongest effect on the brain and skeletal muscle, while theobromine is a relatively weak stimulant in comparison. Coffee has been and continues to be a popular beverage for the stimulatory effect of its caffeine content. In contrast, cocoa and chocolate foods contribute very little to the average daily intake of caffeine in both children and adults. While the theobromine content of chocolate foods is at least ten times higher than that of caffeine, theobromine's physiological effects are generally weak. Based on scientific studies, moderate consumption of methylxanthines from any food source does not cause adverse physiological or health effects. Furthermore, due to the low dietary intakes of caffeine from chocolate-containing foods and the weak physiological effects of theobromine, consumption of cocoa and chocolate-containing foods does not result in any noticeable physiological effects in the majority of individuals.

References

  1. Spiller, G.A. (Ed.) (1998) Caffeine. CRC Press, New York.
  2. Apgar, J.L. and Tarka, S.M., Jr (1998) Methylxanthine composition and consumption patterns of cocoa and chocolate products. In Caffeine. (Ed. by Spiller, G.A.), pp. 163192. CRC Press, New York.
  3. Kreiser, W. and Martin, R. (1978) Cacao products high-pressure liquid chromatographic determination of theobromine in cocoa and chocolate products. J. Assoc. Off. Anal. Chem. 61, 14241427.
  4. Zoumas, B., Kreiser, W. and Martin, R. (1980) Theobromine and caffeine content of chocolate products. J. Food Sci. 45, 314316.
  5. DeVries, J., Johnson, K. and Heroff, J. (1981) HPLC determination of caffeine and theobromine content of various natural and red Dutch cocoas. J. Food Sci. 46, 19681969.
  6. Craig, W.J. and Nguyen, T.T. (1984) Caffeine and theobromine levels in cocoa and carob products, J. Food Sci. 49, 302303, 305.
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