What Is Theobromine? – Benefits, Side Effects, And More

Binging on coffee to stay alert can lead to dire side effects, especially when you don’t pay attention to how much you’re consuming. You’ve probably heard this before, and said to yourself: “but, what is the alternative?”

Fortunately, we have the right answer for you! A compound that has the same properties as caffeine without the side effects.

In this guide, we will answer the most common questions regarding what is theobromine, including its benefits, side effects, sources, and more.

What Is Theobromine?

Theobromine is a compound found in the cacao plant, which is where chocolate is found. It has a similar structure to caffeine and exerts similar functions. You can also find theobromine in kola nut, yerba mate, and guarana – albeit, in smaller amounts.

If you’ve ever wondered why dark chocolate has a bitter taste, theobromine is your answer. In fact, the darker the chocolate, the higher the concentration of theobromine, and therefore the more bitter the taste.

How Does Theobromine Compare To Coffee?

Despite serving the same function (almost), theobromine is milder than caffeine when it comes to the stimulant effects.

With that said, the effects of theobromine last longer than caffeine. Scientifically speaking, it has a half-life of 7.2 hours. Differently put, your body will benefit from this compound for 7.2 hours before it drops to half the initial concentration.

The Benefits Of Theobromine

Theobromine can lead to numerous health benefits such as:

Can Lower Blood Pressure

Theobromine acts as a natural vasodilator, meaning it widens your blood vessels. As a result, your blood pressure decreases, which is great for people with chronic hypertension.

Moreover, theobromine has some diuretic properties, which means it increases the production of urine. Consequently, you will have a lower volume in your blood vessels and reduced blood pressure.

In a randomized, double-blind clinical trial, researchers investigated the effects of high-dose theobromine supplements on 42 individuals with chronic blood hypertension. After three weeks, the authors of the study noticed a significant difference in the systematic blood pressure after two hours of taking theobromine.

The control group had no such results.

Strengthens Your Teeth

Interestingly, consuming whole cocoa will not boost your tooth enamel. Taking theobromine supplements, on the other hand, seems to improve the hardness of your teeth.

Several studies objectified this finding, leaving no doubt about the properties of theobromine.

Increases Your Alertness

Theobromine is a stimulant, just like caffeine. These effects are dose-dependent, however. In other words, you will experience different effects based on how much theobromine is circulating in your bloodstream.

Researchers found that this supplement can also improve your concentration, critical thinking, focus, and visual processing.

We should note that theobromine did not produce the usual ‘happy’ mood that accompanies caffeine consumption.

what is theobromine

Raises HDL Cholesterol Levels

As you may know, HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, is the good cholesterol that you want to be up.

The higher your HDL levels, the lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

In a recent study, researchers found that theobromine boosts HDL levels. During the process, they tested HDL levels in 152 healthy men and women before and after the intake of theobromine.

These participants were divided into 4 groups, where each one received a different dose of theobromine.

  • 1st group – 150 mg of theobromine
  • 2nd group – 850 mg of theobromine
  • 3rd group – 1000 mg of theobromine
  • 4th group – no theobromine (i.e., placebo group)

After analyzing the results, all participants who received theobromine had higher HDL levels.

Improves Mental Health

Similar to caffeine, theobromine is a psychoactive compound that exerts some effects on the brain.

Researchers believe that theobromine might actually benefit your mental health. In one study, 24 healthy female participants noted strong feelings of peace and calmness after taking 700 mg of theobromine.

Moreover, numerous studies found evidence of mood improvement and cognitive enhancement.

Note that this dosage is experimental, and you should not try to replicate it (more on that later).

Sources Of Theobromine

As mentioned above, theobromine is found in cocoa. You can also find it in coffee beans, yerba mate, and tea. However, it is not part of your regular black coffee.

As for food, theobromine is relatively common in:

  • Processed cocoa and dark chocolate products
  • Raw cacao beans, nibs, and powder
  • Black tea
  • Milk chocolate
  • Chocolate pudding, cereal, cake mix, candy, ice cream, and syrup

Potential Side Effects

Theobromine can lead to some potential side effects such as:

Nausea and Headache

The United States National Institutes of Health Toxicology Data Network notes that large doses of theobromine can lead to side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, headache, and sweating.

The institute indicates that high doses translate to around 800 mg to 1500 mg.


Tachycardia describes a rapid heart rate that exceeds 100 beats per minute (at rest).

Since theobromine is a stimulant, expect it to raise your heart rate. However, this only occurs with unusually large doses of theobromine.

It is a big NO for pets

You may have heard that chocolate can be very dangerous for pets (e.g., dogs). Well, the reason for that is theobromine.

As it turns out, dogs are unable to metabolize this compound completely, which leads to its accumulation – a process that can be fatal.

This is even worse for cats since they are unable to metabolize it at all.


According to one study, the optimal dosage of theobromine is around 250 mg per day. Sticking to this dosage is generally safe and leads to no side effects.

However, there is some anecdotal evidence of people reaching up to 400 mg of theobromine without any side effects.


Theobromine is a potent stimulant that offers a number of health benefits. Consuming this supplement correctly can serve as a great alternative for caffeine, which generally leads to many adverse effects.

Hopefully, we’ve managed to simplify the big aspects of theobromine and how it can promote your health.

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