A new study by the Hershey Center for Health & Nutrition has claimed that the current processing techniques applied to cocoa beans and cocoa powder to make dark chocolate can lead to the loss of antioxidants that have beneficial health effects.
The research – published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry – found that the natural antioxidant compounds found in cocoa, known as flavanol, can be decreased by as much as 98 per cent during chocolate production.
The study also highlights that differing methods may be required to ensure that the beneficial health effects of antioxidants such as flavanol can be retained in future chocolate products.
Dr. David A. Stuart, co-director of the Hershey Center, said: "Most of the world's cocoa beans undergo a natural, field fermentation on the farm and then roasting. Both steps are critical to the flavour development for chocolate and cocoa powder.”
“It is important that we understand the balance in creating the wonderful flavor of chocolate with the health benefits of cocoa powder and dark chocolate. This study has gone a long way in furthering that understanding and is the first systematic study of the whole process, from bean to powder, that we are aware of."