8 Potential Health Benefits of the Theobromine Found in Chocolate

In recent years, chocolate lovers have rejoiced as more and more studies suggest both milk and dark chocolate boast a variety of health benefits—thus justifying everyone’s cocoa addiction.

Now, there are still more reasons to celebrate. Newer research suggests the theobromine found in chocolate may boast a slew of mental and physical benefits. 

Just what is theobromine, exactly? It’s a compound that exists naturally in a variety of plants, most notably the cacao bean. (Other natural sources of theobromine include coffee beans, guarana berries, and some tea leaves.) Theobromine generally occurs in higher quantities in dark chocolate than in milk chocolate due to the cacao content typically being higher in a dark chocolate versus a milk chocolate, but in either case its chemical makeup is quite similar to caffeine.

Complex chemistry aside, the bottom line is theobromine may be good for you in a number of ways. Here are eight of the potential health benefits of the theobromine found in chocolate.

Healthy Heart  

Research suggests theobromine may help protect the heart in several ways. For starters, it naturally lowers blood pressure. This, in turn, decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease. There’s also some evidence theobromine may reduce “bad” cholesterol and improve “good” cholesterol. Additionally, the substance may improve blood flow throughout the body, further supporting the heart.

Increased Energy

As noted above, theobromine is quite similar in structure to caffeine; so it may not come as a surprise that theobromine is a known stimulant. This means consuming theobromine may result in both a physical and mental energy boost. Theobromine differs from caffeine, however, in that its stimulant effects are likely to be milder and longer-lasting.

Improved Cognitive Function (at least temporarily)

Because theobromine functions as a stimulant, it may provide a short-term boost in brain function. This is likely because it encourages blood flow to the brain, which may help people feel more mentally alert and focused after having a chocolatey snack.

Healthy Teeth 

Preliminary research suggests theobromine may help strengthen the teeth by protecting tooth enamel from erosion. In the process, theobromine may help defend against the tooth decay that causes cavities. Even more impressive? Theobromine may be a more potent cavity fighter than fluoride, the teeth-strengthening chemical found in the vast majority of toothpastes and mouthwashes.  

Good Mood

Research in this area is mixed, but there’s some evidence the consumption of theobromine may result in a mood boost in the form of greater relaxation and a more positive affect. While more research is needed, we think most people would agree that eating high-quality chocolate is liable to put a smile on their face!

Cough Suppressant

While it’s tempting to reach for the cough syrup when you feel the sniffles coming on, you might be better off eating some chocolate instead. Some research suggests theobromine may act as a cough suppressant. There’s even evidence theobromine is more effective than codeine when it comes to soothing a nasty cough.

Healthy Respiratory System

Evidence suggests theobromine may widen the body’s airways and relax smooth muscle tissue throughout the body, including the smooth muscle tissue found in the lungs. This, in turn, increases airflow to the lungs—which helps explain both why theobromine may be an effective cough suppressant (as noted above) and why theobromine may be useful in the management of asthma and other respiratory conditions.

Reduced Inflammation

As demonstrated by the benefits described above, there’s strong evidence to suggest theobromine may be a potent anti-inflammatory. This is largely because the substance has antioxidant capacities, which helps reduce oxidative stress down to the cellular level.

While the benefits of theobromine are impressive, none of this is to say that people should start supplementing with massive doses of the stuff in powdered form. As with caffeine, excessive theobromine consumption may result in headaches, sweating, and shaking. But if you consume the substance via moderate intake of chocolate, researchers haven’t discovered any risks. To the contrary, evidence suggests a little chocolate really does do a body good.