Is Chocolate Toxic?

IMG_3811It’s rare that governments of the world act in unison and so today goes down in regulatory history as the day the US FDA, the European EMA, the UK MHRA and the Australian TGA have simultaneously issued restrictions on the use of theobromine.

I suspect most people are not aware of theobromine or this new legislation and so a little background. Theobromine is an alkaloid stimulant and a vasodilator (meaning it causes an increase in blood flow). It has been on the list of prohibitive substances for race horses since the 1970s and its adverse effects in dogs are also well established. It is only now, however, that authorities have extended restrictions to humans. Why has it taken so long? Part of the problem is that theobromine is present in chocolate – the world’s favourite confectionary. Regulatory agencies therefore agreed an outright ban of chocolate was impracticable but have instead issued regulations limiting its sale. Different countries are taking different approaches, but here in the UK, from the end of this month, chocolate will only be available through a doctor’s prescription. A government spokesperson said that, “we have delayed bringing in this legislation because we do not want to spoil Easter – it’s what the people would have wanted.”

Pharmacologists have pointed out that humans metabolise caffeine to theobromine and other alkaloids and so they are concerned restrictions on chocolate may be extended to tea and coffee. But there’s no sign of this yet – we will have to wait and see.

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