There’s an assertion circulating on the Web that caffeine content in chocolate is an urban legend based on misunderstanding of a related compound, theobromine. From what information I’ve been able to turn up, it appears this assertion is false: that is, the urban legend is that chocolate doesn’t contain caffeine.
The first significant information I found on this is on the Hershey Company’s site, which has a page entitled “Caffeine and Theobromine“. On this page they discuss the two separately and state that “For example, a 1.55 ounce (43g) HERSHEY’S milk chocolate bar contains about 9 mg of caffeine.” They later say “a 1.55 ounce (43g) HERSHEY’S milk chocolate bar contains about 64mg of theobromine.” It does not seem possible that they could be confusing the two in this situation.
This next page also gives specific numbers for both caffeine and theobromine content of chocolate, though I don’t know how reliable the source is: http://www.food-info.net/uk/qa/qa-fp47.htm
Getting into slightly more authoritative stuff, here’s a Russian article through Medline called “Biologically active substances in grated cocoa and cocoa butter” that discusses both caffeine and theobromine content in chocolate, separately: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=17674523&ordinalpos=2&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum .
Here’s another article, this one from The Journal of Chromatographic Science, also speaks of both caffeine and theobromine content in chocolate: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=17555636&ordinalpos=3&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
Why does all this matter? Depending on who you are, it may not. After all, chocolate doesn’t contain a lot of caffeine. That Hershey’s bar mentioned above only has about 1/10 the amount of caffeine found in a cup of coffee, though dark chocolate has more. However, if you’re like me and have bad physiological reactions to caffeine (itching, headaches, etc.) under some circumstances, it’s pretty important to understand that chocolate–all chocolate–is going to have that effect.
On a related note, please remember too that decaffeinated coffee and tea aren’t devoid of caffeine, either–they both just have a lot less than their caffeinated counterparts.
All of the above is just based on online research, of course: I’m not a nutritionist, researcher, or medical professional.
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