Caffeine & Theobromine

Other than prescription or illegal drugs, caffeine and theobromine are the most common central nervous system stimulants you may encounter. In fact, because of their inclusion in many popular products, you may consume far more of them than you would prescription stimulants. Caffeine, the far more common of the two, constitutes an ingredient in soft drinks, tea, coffee, diet pills and other products. Theobromine appears most often in chocolate, since it commonly occurs in cacao, the base substance of chocolate. While caffeine and theobromine may produce similar effects, they are not exactly the same.

Close-up of a man mixing a cup of espresso. Credit: Devilkae/iStock/Getty Images

Caffeine Benefits

Some foods and drinks you ingest contain caffeine naturally, while manufacturers also put an artificial version of it in other products. Caffeine stimulates your central nervous system. For this reason, many people use it, particularly in drinks, to wake themselves up and make themselves feel more alert. You also can take it straight as over-the-counter anti-sleep aids. This stimulation of your central nervous system has a side benefit of causing you to feel less hungry. For this reason, manufacturers often include caffeine in weight loss products.

Caffeine Side Effects

The same effects caffeine produces as benefits also can lead to its side effects. For example, the alertness caused by the ingestion of caffeine may make it difficult or impossible for you to sleep when you want to. The stimulating effects also can cause jitteriness and feelings of agitation. You may feel overly nervous when you use too much caffeine, indicates. You may become more irritable than normal.

Theobromine Benefits

Like caffeine, theobromine can help pick you up, and keep you more alert and awake. Its effects occur in a similar manner to caffeine. Unless chocolate makers specifically add caffeine to chocolate, the candy does not naturally have caffeine in it. The boost you get from eating chocolate comes from theobromine. Eating a small amount of chocolate may refresh you, but eating large amounts may cause side effects as well as weight gain.

Theobromine Side Effects

Theobromine can make you feel sick in your stomach and you may vomit if you do not typically ingest it or you consume too much. It also can make you lose your normal appetite. Like caffeine, theobromine can produce feelings of restlessness and anxiety. It also can cause tremors in your body, particularly in your limbs, notes.

Caffeine and Theobromine

Because both caffeine and theobromine work as stimulants in your central nervous system, ingesting them both at the same time may heighten their effects. You may become more alert and awake than if you only consumed one or the other. The side effects, too, may become increased, so you may feel more anxious and agitated than when you take either one separately.

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