Pharmacological Effects of Theobromine and Caffeine

Publication Year: 
1985

While caffeine is a potent stimulant of the central nervous system, its relative theobromine shows little such stimulation. It has been well established that caffeine increases sleep latency (the time it takes one to fall asleep), wheras experiments by Dorfman and Jarvik demontrated that doses of up to 375 mg of theobromine one hour before bedtime had no adverse effect on sleep latency. This explains why many coffee drinkers do not take coffee late into the evening, in order that they may sleep well; hot cocoa on the other hand having long been a favored evening drink of millions of children and adults alike.
The cacahuatl eater has already referred to the diuretic effects of caffeine and theobromine - this is one of the major pharmacological properties of the latter. Because theobromine lacks caffeine's stimulating properties, it is often preferred to caffeine in therapy for conditions like cardiac edema, in which diuretics are indicated. Theobromine is also a metabolite of caffeine. That is to say, following oral administration of caffeine, theobromine can be detected in the blood and a small amount is excreted later in the urine.
Although theobromine is one of the most commonly-used drugs, in the form of chocolate foods, it is today little used in medicine. Accordingly there is a dearth of modern studies on the effects of the drug. In England, where horses came to be fed cacao bean hulls for the sake of economy, a scandal occurred in the horse racing world, when theobromine was detected in the ujrine of thorough bred horses in routine post-race urinalysis. It is, of course illegal to administer stimulents to race horses, and subsequent investigation revealed that the diets of the horses had been accidentally contaminated with feed containing cacao bean hulls, and that this was the source of the theobromine, not the handicapper's needle. It is thus to the popularity of horse racing that we owe some of our knowledge of the properties of theobromine. Of interest to the cacahuatl eater in the report of these equine studies is the fact that the cardiac-stimulating effect of theorbromien was dramatically demonstratde in one of the experimental animals who recieved a dose of 800mg theobromine in its feed. The cardiac-stimulating effect is one of the more prominent properties of theobromine, and the cacahuatl eater's self-experiments with the drug afforded him personal experience of this action (his pulse increasing from resting level of 56 to 72 within 15 minutes of taking 200 mg of theobromine).

- Text from The Cacahuatl Eater Ruminations of an Unabashed Chocolate Addict by Ott, Jonathan, 1985
- Image from http://www.usroasterie.com/flavored.php

chocolate, coffee, coffee bean
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