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How Much Caffeine Is in Dark Chocolate

Chocolate and health

What are the positive and negative consequences of enjoying chocolate? - I would like to answer this question here as far as possible.

The ingredients and their impact are decisive for the question. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of substances that are in the smallest quantities in the chocolate.

how much caffeine is in dark chocolate
Photo by samer daboul 

Most of these are not known and opinions also differ in the assessment of the known and partially researched substances. Only the most researched ingredients should be treated here:

·        Theobromine and Caffeine

·        Anandamide and Phenylethylamine

·        Salsolinol

·        Polyphenols, tannins (extra side)

·        Fat and sugar

·        Cholesterol

·        N-Phenylpropenoyl-L-aminoacidamides (CocoHeal)

·        Heavy metals and toluene

Theobromine and Caffeine

The physiological effect of these two components is generally accepted, i.e. only that the effect of the pure substance could be demonstrated in the experiment. Exactly how these substances work in compounds as complex as chocolate is debatable. Caffeine and theobromine account for about 1 to 2 percent of cocoa. Caffeine and theobromine are alkaloids; complex organic compounds that occur in about 10 percent of all plants.


Theobromine stimulates the central nervous system, although not as strong as other alkaloids do. The special feature of theobromine is that it dilates the blood vessels and acts as a diuretic agent. According to a study by Omar Usmani (London, 2004), theobromine can also have a soothing effect on coughing fits.


Caffeine works by stimulating the central nervous system and the blood vessel system. The effects include nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, and worse discomfort, including heart attack. On the other hand, caffeine reduces fatigue, increases mental performance, stimulates the production of gastric juices, and has a diuretic effect.

With these effects, it should always be borne in mind that pure caffeine was used for scientific tests. In reality, however, we are taking up a mixture of a wide variety of substances that are so diverse that we cannot comprehend the effects.

In addition, the exact amount of caffeine depends very much on the processing of the product and its effects can vary greatly from person to person. In addition, the amount of caffeine in a cup of chocolate is very low. So, how much caffeine is in dark chocolate?

The caffeine content of cocoa compared to coffee and tea:

·        1 cup filtered coffee 50 to 175 milligrams

·        1 cup tea 25 to 100 milligrams

·        1 cup cocoa no caffeine at all up to 25 milligrams

Anandamide and Phenylethylamine

These two substances are also found in hashish and morphine, for example, and act on the parts of the brain that are responsible for feelings of happiness and pleasure. However, the quantities found in chocolate are so small that there is no risk of addiction.

The minimum dose to achieve even an intoxicating effect in an adult is 20 kilograms of milk chocolate. Those who have managed to do so are likely to give it back before the first traces of anandamide and phenylethylamine have been digested.


The effect of salsolinol is still unclear. It was found in chocolate at Humboldt University Berlin when alcohol consumption was involved. The fact is that every person has a natural salsolinol level, how it works, what it is good for, and whether the need for salsolinol is met by food, is not yet known and remains to be seen.

Salsolinol is counted in the group of endogenous neurotoxins. It is now known that salsolinol inhibits various enzymes and enzyme complexes and leads to oxidative stress. (Supplement of 8.2.2009).

Polyphenols (tannins)

The information about polyphenols and flavanols has become too extensive and is now on its own page: Polyphenols

Special chocolate with a content of 2.2% natural cocoa flavanols can be found in our online shop under Acticoa Intense.

Fat and sugar

Just over half of cocoa beans are made of fat. This is obtained from the beans by a mechanical process developed by van Houten in the last century. We call the fat cocoa butter, the rest of the mass cocoa powder.

Cocoa butter is used to produce high-quality chocolate, cosmetics, and medicines. It is characterized by the long durability and the ability to melt slightly below the human body temperature at temperatures.

Van Houten's method can reduce the fat content of cocoa powder to between 22% and 11%. For example, cocoa powder for beverages is significantly less fat than in chocolate, which is often added to additional cocoa butter.

In addition to the high-fat content of chocolate, sugar also has a very high proportion of many varieties. Fat and sugar make chocolate a very good energy supplier. A bar of milk chocolate provides 550 kilocalories or 2311 kilojoules.

A good reason, then, is why chocolate should not be missing on any expedition or in any army pack. On the other hand, this means that too much chocolate can lead to obesity on a normal diet.

The sugar, for its part, attacks the teeth, encouraged by the long length of the chocolate in the mouth. However, this effect is somewhat reduced by chocolate with milk, as substances contained in the milk such as calcium, casein, and phosphates have caries inhibiting effect.


There are numerous studies on chocolate and cholesterol. Most suggest that chocolate or cocoa butter produces the following effects:

1.     it lowers the total cholesterol

2.     it lowers the (bad) LDL cholesterol

3.     it increases the (good) HDL cholesterol

4.     it reduces platelet aggregation and thus reduces the risk of thrombosis.

As Morrissey (1986) found, the influence is more pronounced with higher cocoa butter content. Thus, dark chocolate would be preferable.

N-Phenylpropenoyl-L-aminoacidamides (CocoHeal)

Scientists at the University of M√ľnster, Germany, have isolated and characterized this substance from cocoa. It has a growth-promoting effect on skin cells called keratinocytes.

In the future, it should be possible to use the skin-regenerative and wound-healing properties therapeutically. Possible applications are the prevention of sore skin areas in bedridden, the treatment of sunburn, or the use of an anti-aging agent.

In addition, CocoHeal prevents the bacteria Heliobacter pylori from attaching to the stomach tissue. These bacteria can lead to stomach ulcers.

Source: Provendis

Heavy metals and toluene

With the exception of cadmium, no higher concentrations of heavy metals or toluene occur in cocoa. The lead content is between 0.06 mg/kg and 0.1 mg/kg, the average copper content is 8.9 mg/kg and zinc is 20.7 mg/kg.

Toluene was found in 96% of all samples, averaging 0.04 mg/kg. The figures are based on a study carried out by the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety in which 286 chocolate samples were examined (2002 study). 


Cadmium is suspected of being carcinogenic and damaging the kidney and liver. However, there is only a danger if too much cadmium is regularly ingested. Cadmium differs from other heavy metals in that the content of dark chocolates is significantly higher than that of milk or cream chocolates.

Cadmium is absorbed by the roots of the cocoa tree. Soil plays an important role in this. Soils in the growing regions of Central America are more polluted than the soils in West Africa.

The ICCO lists a cadmium content of 0.18 to 1.5 mg/kg for cocoa beans from Venezuela and Ecuador. In comparison, for cocoa beans from West Africa only 0.08 to 0.14 mg/kg.

A guideline or limit value for the cadmium content of chocolate did not exist for a long time. A limit value proposed by BVL and others should be 0.3 mg/kg. In the 2002 BVL study, 2.8% of all samples exceeded this value.

Even in an eco test study in autumn 2005, some samples exceeded 0.3 mg/kg, some even exceeding 0.4 mg/kg.

From January 2019 cadmium limits for chocolate.

The European Union has introduced cadmium limits for chocolate on 1 January 2019. Since then, the following maximum values have been applied:

·        0.1 mg cadmium / kg for milk chocolate with less than 30% cocoa content

·        0.3 mg cadmium / kg for chocolate with 30% to 50% cocoa content

·        0.8 mg cadmium / kg for chocolate with more than 50% cocoa content

·        0.6 mg cadmium / kg for cocoa powder

The cadmium limits remain controversial, especially because in many regions, especially in Central and South America, the sale of cocoa beans is now considerably more difficult, as it is precisely these soils that are pre-polluted.

General Recommendations on Cadmium Quantities

The WHO lists 1 microgram per kilogram of body weight as a tolerable daily intake that is considered safe. After that, the daily consumption of 100 g of the more heavily stressed chocolates would not be a problem.

The Otto Normal consumer, who eats far less than 100 g of chocolate per day, is already far from the daily maximum dose. The University of Vienna has calculated for Austria that the daily cadmium intake is on average around 9.4 micrograms per day (source: expert opinion of the University of Vienna).

The European Food Safety Authority has reduced the tolerable daily intake of cadmium. Until now, the VALUE of the WHO was used in the EU for 1 microgram per kg of body weight per day. (Update March 2009).

Now the EU reduced tolerable daily intake to 2.5 micrograms/kg per week, i.e. 0.36 micrograms per kg of body weight per day. According to the EU, an average of 2.3 micrograms/kg are taken per week, but at-risk groups such as vegetarians, smokers, and children often reach levels above 5 micrograms/kg per week. 

However, a general limit value for cadmium in food has not yet been introduced.