Theobromine (C7H8N4O2, or 3,7-dimethylxanthine, or 3,7-Dihydro-3,7-dimethyl-1H-purine-2,6-dione) is an alkaloid of the methylxanthine family, which also includes the similar compounds theophylline and caffeine. It is known to induce mutations in bacteria and lower eukaryotes, but does not seem to cause mutations in higher eukaryotes.
Theobromine is a chemical stimulant frequently confused with caffeine, but has very different effects on the human body. It is a mild, lasting stimulant with a mood improving effect. Theobromine is found in cocoa and chocolate, in doses that are safe for humans to consume in large quantities, but can be lethal for animals such as dogs and horses, as they metabolize theobromine more slowly. Theobromine belongs to a class of alkaloid molecules known as methylxanthines. Methylxanthines naturally occur in as many as sixty different plant species and include caffeine (the primary methlyxanthine in coffee) and theophylline (the primary methylxanthine in tea). Theobromine is the primary methylxanthine found in products of the cocoa tree, theobroma cacao.
Theobromine affects humans similarly to caffeine, but on a much smaller scale. Theobromine is mildly diuretic (increases urine production), is a mild stimulant, and relaxes the smooth muscles of the bronchi in the lungs. In the human body, theobromine levels are halved between 6-10 hours after consumption.
Theobromine is best known for is use in chocolate products, such as Hershey's products, ice cream, ect. This is because theobromine has a distinct, bitter flavor. Levels of theobromine in chocolate products varies greatly depending on the type of chocolate.For example, there are higher quantities of theobromine in darker chocolate and in higher quality while much lower levels are found in lighter, such as milk chocolate, and lower quality chocolate . However, theobromine is also used as a drug for solving many different ailments due to some it its lesser known attributes.
Theobromine has been used as a diuretic, meaning that it increases urine production in the body. This is particularly useful after a person has experienced cardiac failure. Cardiac failure can sometimes result in an accumulation of bodily fluids. Theobromine is also known for its ability to dilate blood vessels making it a commonly prescribed treatment for people suffering from high blood pressure. Its ability to dilate has also been distorted and used with digitalis to relieve dilation.
Theobromine is known as a weak stimulant. It is very similar to caffeine in how it reacts with the body, but must more mild and unlike caffeine, does not affect the central nervous system. As a stimulant it has been noted to raise levels of serotonin when combined with the other ingredients in chocolate to perform as a cheap, temporary substitute for common anti-depressants. However, extremely large quantities would have to be ingested before serotonin levels would elevate enough to make up for an anti-depressant.
Theobromine remains in the body for a very long period of time, however between six and ten hours after it has been ingested, levels of theobromine are halved. An odd quality about theobromine is that it is able to relax bronchi muscles in the lungs, the third attribute of the compound which results in a medical cure of some kind.