Clinical benefit and preservation of flavonols in dark chocolate manufacturing
McShea A, Ramiro-Puig E, Munro SB, Casadesus G, Castell M, Smith MA. Clinical benefit and preservation of flavonols in dark chocolate manufacturing. Nutr Rev 2008; 66(11):630-641.
Chocolate is the processed form of cacao beans that undergo fundamental steps of fermentation, roasting, and milling before it is widely available to consumers. This case study examines the chemical composition of chocolate by analyzing the process of dark chocolate production from cacao beans in regards to its antioxidant flavonols content with correlation to positive health benefits.
Fermentation is required to break down the bitter taste of cacao beans in its original form, but lowers the beneficial antioxidant content within the cacao beans by changing the concentrations ...view middle of the document...
Conching is the process after milling, it is a multi-day heat treatment that grinds the chocolate to improve flavor and decrease free acids and volatile by-products. An alternative to conching is the dutching method, it neutralizes acetic acids in cacao. Dutching as opposed to the more gentle conching technique, significantly reduces antioxidant flavonoids content in dark chocolate.
Theobromine and caffeine in dark chocolate are proven to have mild vasodilative and diuretic effects on the body. Antioxidants in dark chocolate are bioavailable in the body. After conducting the experiment on human participants, gastric environment in the stomach proved to have minimal effect on antioxidants such as polyphenols, thus if not degraded in the during processing, antioxidants can travel to the small intestine for absorption without degeneration.
Research shows that antioxidants in chocolate have vasoactive effects, moderate blood pressure and generate a positive change in cholesterol biochemistry. It reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease due to antioxidant status, vasodilation, and inhibition of platelet activation and aggregation. Proper amount of flavonoids consumption in the form of chocolate (6.3 gram of chocolate per day) could lower blood pressure, improves cerebral blood flow in humans, improve spatial memory, decrease brain edema, neuronal death in the hippocampus, and increase blood oxygenation levels. High flavonoid content is shown to delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Despite health benefits of flavonoids in dark chocolate, it must be considered against other content in chocolate for consumption such as the concentration of flavonoids that are actually in the chocolate that may be lost due to the damage during processing, high amounts of saturated fat, addition of vegetable oils, and large amounts of added sucrose that may lead to negative effects such as weight gain and potential health problems.