Scientists in Spain are reporting development of a new process to make cocoa powder with higher amounts of the healthful chemical compounds linked to chocolate's beneficial effects. The study is scheduled for publication in the May 30 issue of ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Juan Carlos Espin de Gea and colleagues report that the new cocoa powder contains levels of some flavonoids 8 times higher than conventional cocoa. They achieved the higher flavonoid content by omitting the traditional fermentation and roasting steps used in the processing of cocoa beans. Those steps destroy some flavonoids, which are natural antioxidants.
Researchers used the flavonoid-enriched cocoa powder in a clinical trial to determine whether the compounds were bioavailable — in a form that humans can absorb. In the trial, six healthy volunteers consumed a milk drink made with flavonoid-enriched cocoa. The same volunteers later drank chocolate milk made from traditional cocoa. Blood and urine tests established the bioavailability of flavonoids in the enriched-milk drink, showing that people do absorb higher levels of the compounds.
Based on the results, researchers suggest further clinical trials on the health benefits of flavonoid-enriched cocoa powder.
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