Can chocolate kill you? (3 Notable Sides)
In this brief guide, we will answer the question, can chocolate kill you? We will elaborate on if and how chocolate can kill you. We will also discuss some characteristics of chocolate, including the good and the bad and its effect on animals.
Can chocolate kill you?
It is possible, but very unlikely. The reason humans don’t succumb to the effects of excessive chocolate consumption is primarily attributed to the rate at which our bodies metabolize theobromine, the primary methylxanthine present in chocolate.
Unlike rats and dogs, humans metabolize theobromine relatively quickly.
While there is no precise data on theobromine toxicity in humans, drawing from caffeine toxicity studies, an average adult would need to consume approximately 50 kilograms of milk chocolate in a single sitting to approach a potentially lethal dose. (1)
What is chocolate composition?
Chocolate consists of cocoa bean solids, which can constitute up to 80% of the total weight in dark chocolates, alongside cocoa butter.
Milk chocolate, on the other hand, contains cocoa butter, sugar, milk powder, lecithin, and cocoa (at least 20-25%).
White chocolate has a composition of cocoa butter, milk, and sugar, without any cocoa solids.
The primary ingredient in all types of chocolate is cocoa, which also contributes to its notable fat content, making up approximately 40-50% of cocoa butter. Within cocoa butter, around 33% is oleic acid, 25% is palmitic acid, and 33% is stearic acid.
In addition to its rich composition, cocoa serves as a source of polyphenols, making up about 10% of the whole bean’s dry weight. Moreover, chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which are natural stimulants (2)
Why can chocolate be toxic?
The primary toxic elements in chocolate are the methylxanthine alkaloids, namely theobromine and caffeine. In humans, these methylxanthines are readily digested and eliminated, with theobromine having a relatively short half-life of 2-3 hours.
Rats also metabolize theobromine at a slower rate compared to humans, while dogs exhibit an even lengthier half-life of approximately 18 hours for theobromine.
Dogs experience slow absorption, as their metabolism involves both the liver and extrahepatic recirculation before theobromine is eventually excreted in the urine. (3)
Why can chocolate be harmful to you?
Consuming chocolate might lead to a decrease in the tonus of the lower esophageal sphincter, potentially promoting gastroesophageal reflux.
Certain substances in chocolate, such as phenylethylamine, caffeine, its metabolite, and theobromine, could act as triggers for migraine attacks. Individuals prone to migraines should take these factors into careful consideration.
Regarding body mass index (BMI) values, the advantages of polyphenols and epicatechin content are counterbalanced by the high calorie-to-gram ratio of chocolate. Additionally, the sugar content in milk chocolate may lead to adverse effects. (4)
Does chocolate have health benefits?
Only dark chocolate, characterized by high percentages of cocoa, flavonoids, and theobromine, and low sugar content, stands apart from milk chocolate and other types of chocolate when it comes to potential health-promoting effects.
Dark chocolate boasts a rich array of beneficial elements, including polyphenols, flavonoids, procyanidins, theobromines, as well as various essential vitamins and minerals. These components play a crucial role in positively modulating the human immune system.
The consumption of dark chocolate has been associated with protective effects against cardiovascular diseases, certain types of cancers, and various brain-related disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Thanks to its anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial properties, dark chocolate is considered a functional food, offering additional health advantages beyond its basic nutritional value.
Furthermore, dark chocolate has been linked to benefits in weight management and the promotion of a healthy lipid profile, making it a valuable addition to a balanced diet for those seeking overall well-being. (5)
In dogs, the initial signs of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, haematemesis (bloody vomiting), and increased thirst (polydipsia); they may escalate to cardiac arrhythmias, seizures, and even result in death.
Theobromine primarily impacts the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, respiratory system, and also acts as a diuretic. The reported lethal dose of theobromine in dogs is approximately 100-500 mg per kilogram of body weight.
However, not all chocolate varieties contain the same amount of theobromine. Cocoa powder and plain chocolate have the highest concentrations (20 mg/g and 15 mg/g, respectively), while milk chocolate contains much less (2 mg/g), and white chocolate has the lowest concentration (0.1 mg/g).
As a result, consuming less than 100 grams of plain chocolate could be fatal for a 10 kg dog due to its high theobromine content. (3)
Other FAQs about Chocolates that you may be interested in.
In this brief guide, we answered the question, can chocolate kill you? We elaborated on if and how chocolate can kill you. We also discussed some characteristics of chocolate, including the good and the bad and its effect on animals.
- Ainsworth, C. Death by chocolate – is it possible? New Scientist, 196 (2635-2636), 40–41. 2007.
- Montagna MT, Diella G, Triggiano F, Caponio GR, De Giglio O, Caggiano G, Di Ciaula A, Portincasa P. Chocolate, “Food of the Gods”: History, Science, and Human Health. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 16(24):4960; 2019.
- Finlay F, Guiton S. Chocolate poisoning. BMJ. 331(7517):633. 2005.
- Zugravu, C., & Otelea, M. R. Dark Chocolate: To Eat or Not to Eat? A Review. Journal of AOAC International, 102(5), 1388–1396. 2019.
- Sharmistha Samanta, Tanmay Sarkar, Runu Chakraborty, Maksim Rebezov, Mohammad Ali Shariati, Muthu Thiruvengadam, Kannan R.R. Rengasamy, Dark chocolate: An overview of its biological activity, processing, and fortification approaches, Current Research in Food Science, 5, 1916-1943, 2022.