Franco R, Oñatibia-Astibia A, Martínez-Pinilla E. Health benefits of methylxanthines in cacao and chocolate. Nutrients. 2013 Oct;5(10):4159-4173.
One may wonder why methylxanthines are so abundant in beverages used
by humans for centuries, or in cola-drinks that have been heavily consumed since their
appearance. It is likely that humans have stuck to any brew containing compounds with
psychoactive properties, resulting in a better daily life, i.e., more efficient thinking,
exploring, hunting, etc., however, without the serious side effects of drugs of abuse. The
physiological effects of methylxanthines have been known for a long time and they are
mainly mediated by the so-called adenosine receptors. Caffeine and theobromine are the
most abundant methylxanthines in cacao and their physiological effects are notable. Their
health-promoting benefits are so remarkable that chocolate is explored as a functional food.
The consequences of adenosine receptor blockade by natural compounds present in
cacao/chocolate are here reviewed. Palatability and health benefits of methylxanthines,
in general, and theobromine, in particular, have further contributed to sustain one of the
most innocuous and pleasant habits: chocolate consumption.