Study measures how processing affects cocoa's health benefits

by Jeff Gelski
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Results of a study published on-line in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry revealed how the Dutching process resulted in a 60% loss of the mean total flavonoid content in cocoa powder. The Dutching process, also called alkalinization by the researchers, involves treating cocoa with alkali.

"It is concluded that the large decrease found in the flavonoid content of natural cocoa powder, together with the observed change in the monometric flavanol profile that results from the alkalinization treatment, could affect the antioxidant properties and the polyphenol bioavailability of cocoa powder products," researchers from the Universitat de Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain, said.

Among flavanols, a common class of flavonoids, epicatechin had a 67% decline as a mean percentage difference while catechin declined 38%.

Both Barry Callebaut and Mars, Inc. use processing techniques that do not remove so much of the heart-healthy elements from the cocoa and chocolate.

Flavonoids in cocoa may counteract the oxidation that turns good cholesterol (H.D.L.) into bad cholesterol (L.D.L.), according to Barry Callebaut. Flavonoids are a specific group of polyphenols. Barry Callebaut developed an Acticoa process that leads to a 20% loss of cocoa polyphenols, which compares to a 70% loss in the standard cocoa process, according to the company.

Mars. Inc. developed a patented process called Cocoapro that helps retain the flavanols normally destroyed during processing.

This article can also be found in the digital edition of Food Business News, May 13, 2008, starting on Page 63. Click here to search that archive.

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