Chemistry of chocolate

One of my favorite chocolate

Not long ago, I posted an article regarding comfort food. Well, I sometimes eat chocolate when I am feeling sad.

What is so special about chocolate? First of all different cocoa varieties have different characteristics: Forastero, for example, has strong aroma, while Nacional has more aromatic and floral notes. More than 600 molecules are involved in the complexity of chocolate aroma and flavor.

Chocolate makes us feeling better because of tryptophan, a molecule involved in the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, contributing to our sense of well-being.

Another important molecule is theobromine. It is a stimulant, similar to caffeine, and its concentration is higher in dark chocolate. That is why if we eat dark chocolate during a mental activity (studying, thesis writing…) we feel more energetic. You need to be careful if you have cats and dogs. Because of theobromine, 50 gr of dark chocolate can be fatal for your little pets.

Vanillin is one of the aroma of chocolate, but it is not naturally found in cocoa beans, but it is often added to milk chocolate.

Butyric acid is also often added by chocolate producers. This molecule is responsible for the sour notes.

White chocolate is white because it does not contain any cocoa solid, but only milk, sugar and cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is composed by various fats, among them stearic acid and palmitic acid.

As usual, here some good reasons to eat chocolate (in a moderate way).

  • It has antioxidant properties (thanks to polyphenols and flavonoids).
  • Its consumption lower the risk of stroke, atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.
  • It decreases blood pressure and the risk of developing hypertension (thanks to procyanidins).
  • It reduces the level of LDL (aka bad cholesterol).
  • It has anti-inflamatory effects (polyphenols, thank you again!).
  • It has anticarcinogenic properties (thanks to… our beloved polyphenols).
  • It has a protective effect against neurodegenerative disease (polyphenols, I am talking about you!).


Aprotosoaie et al., “Flavor Chemistry of Cocoa and Cocoa Products—An Overview”, (2015),

Barisisic et al., “The Chemistry behind Chocolate Production”, (2019), doi:10.3390/molecules24173163

Tannenbaum, “Chocolate: A Marvelous Natural Product of Chemistry”, (2004),

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