Differential contributions of theobromine and caffeine on mood, psychomotor performance and blood pressure

Physiol Behav. 2011 Oct 24;104(5):816-22. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2011.07.027. Epub 2011 Aug 4.


The combination of theobromine and caffeine, methylxanthines found in chocolate, has previously been shown to improve mood and cognition. However, it is unknown whether these molecules act synergistically. This study tested the hypothesis that a combination of caffeine and theobromine has synergistic effects on cognition, mood and blood pressure in 24 healthy female subjects. The effects of theobromine (700 mg), caffeine (120 mg) or the combination of both, or placebo were tested on mood (the Bond-Lader visual analog scale), psychomotor performance (the Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST)) and blood pressure before and at 1, 2 and 3 h after administration. Theobromine alone decreased self-reported calmness 3h after ingestion and lowered blood pressure relative to placebo 1 h after ingestion. Caffeine increased self-reported alertness 1, 2 and 3h after ingestion and contentedness 1 and 2 h after ingestion, and increased blood pressure relative to placebo (at 1 h). The combination of caffeine+theobromine had similar effects as caffeine alone on mood, but with no effect on blood pressure. There was no treatment effect on DSST performance. Together these results suggest that theobromine and caffeine could have differential effects on mood and blood pressure. It was tentatively concluded that caffeine may have more CNS-mediated effects on alertness, while theobromine may be acting primarily via peripheral physiological changes.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect / drug effects*
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects*
  • Caffeine / pharmacology*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology*
  • Drug Combinations
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects*
  • Saliva / drug effects
  • Saliva / metabolism
  • Theobromine / pharmacology*
  • Time Factors
  • Vasodilator Agents / pharmacology*
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Drug Combinations
  • Vasodilator Agents
  • Caffeine
  • Theobromine