Chocolate is known for its fatty content and people are always being warned to keep their consumption levels low to avoid the health risks that come with obesity. Eaten in moderation, however, some researchers suggest that it can be good for cardiovascular health. A meta-analysis of seven studies conducted at the University of Cambridge discovered that, out of 114,000 participants, those who ate the most chocolate were 37% less likely to develop heart disease and were 29% less likely to have a stroke than those who ate little chocolate. However, the researchers were quick to point out that the binge-eating of chocolate could undo any good. They also recommended that “initiatives to reduce the current fat and sugar content in most chocolate products should be explored.”
Now researchers at the University of Warwick in England claim that they have found a solution for lower fat chocolate that still retains the taste and ‘mouth-feel’ of full fat chocolate. They have done this by replacing around 50% of the fat in chocolate with fruit juice. The reduction in fat is due to the removal of a lot of the cocoa butter and milk fats in chocolate, which have then been substituted with “tiny droplets of juice measuring under 30 microns in diameter.” Something called a Pickering emulsion ensures that the droplets don’t merge together.
One of the key concerns in making a lower fat chocolate was to ensure that the ‘mouth-feel’ of the chocolate – that creamy, indulgent feel that chocolate has – was still present. Fortunately, the researchers believe that they have found just the way to do this and that the new form of chocolate tastes just as good as its fattier competition.
There are still concerns, however, because without taking special measures, there is a distinctly fruity taste left behind by the cranberry and orange juice used. The researchers have therefore come up with an option, which involves adding small amounts of water and ascorbic acid (or Vitamin C) that will take away the fruity taste.
The researchers now intend to pass on the chemistry of their fruit juice-infused chocolate to the food industry in the hope that manufacturers can make lower fat bars of chocolate. Whether that is actually carried out depends on the consumer, of course. Comments on the Daily Mail page that announced the research suggest that consumers may not be prepared to accept that the chocolate is any healthier for its reduction in fat content. As some point out, fruit juice is full of sugar, so is not always as healthy as people make out. In addition, the doctoring of something that people have enjoyed for so long is not appreciated by everyone.
Whether the chocolate makes it to the shops or not, the researchers have at least come up with a solution to the high fat content in chocolate. The general public then have the option of voting with their feet.
The University of Warwick report can be found in the Journal of Materials Chemistry.