The Role of Chemistry in History

The Role of Chemistry in History header image 2

Chemical Composition

April 27th, 2008 · No Comments ·

Introduction Chemical Composition History affects Chocolate: Spread and Innovation Chocolate Affects History: Economics Chocolate Affects History: Health Benefits Chocolate Affects History: Pop Culture



Theobromine is a methylxanthine or mild stimulant that is similar to caffeine and occurs naturally in cocoa beans. It has less impact on the central nervous system than caffeine but more on the heart. Interestingly, the structure contains no bromine. Instead, the name comes from the name of the Theobroma cacao tree. Theobroma roughly translates to “food of the gods.”

Theobromine was first isolated from cacao in 1878 and was synthesized from xanthine by German chemist Hermann Emil Fischer who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1902.

The concentration of theobromine varies based on the type of chocolate. Hershey’s cocoa powder contains 2.16% of theobromine. Dark chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate contain more and pure cocoa extract can contain up to 10%.

A combination of theobromine and some other chemicals in chocolate have been shown to affect serotonin levels in the brain. A recent study shows that eating chocolate stimulates brain activity and heart rate more than kissing.

The theobromine in chocolate can lead to poisoning in animals such as dogs and cats because they can’t metabolize it fast enough.

Other chemicals: Chocolate also contains small amounts of anandamide, which has been shown to bind to the same receptor in the brain as THC (marijuana) Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine which increases dopamine and could possibly treat depression.


Tags: Chocolate (Theobromine)