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Study clarifies the role of cocoa bean handling on flavanol levels
Date:3/10/2011

As evidence regarding the health benefits of consuming dark chocolate and cocoa mounts, there has been an increasing debate about which cocoa and chocolate products deliver the most beneficial compounds, known as flavanols, and if steps in cocoa and chocolate production diminish the levels of cocoa flavanols.

In a recently published paper, scientists reported on the effect of conventional production methods of cocoa beans on the levels of flavanols, natural antioxidants. The study, conducted by researchers at the Hershey Center for Health & Nutrition, investigated cocoa beans and cocoa powders and described production steps that retain naturally occurring flavanols and reported that alkali processing causes a loss of up to 98% of one important flavanol, epicatechin, in the final product.

The study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, compared the effects of various common production methods on freshly harvested unfermented and naturally farm-fermented beans. Levels of epicatechin and catechin, a less active flavanol antioxidant, were compared in beans that were unfermented and in beans that underwent medium (about 5 days) and long fermentation (about 10 days). Long fermentation previously has been shown to impact the level of epicatechin in cocoa beans, and the authors reported loss of both flavanols as fermentation time increased. Beans were roasted to temperatures of 120oC and the researchers found that temperatures of 70C or higher caused some loss (up to 88% at 120oC) of epicatechin. Catechin levels, however, increased as roasting temperature increased. Additionally, natural cocoa powders and powders that had been treated with different levels of alkali also were measured. The study found that by far the greatest flavanol losses occurred during alkali processing. The results also suggested that epicatechin may be converted to catechin by alkali processing.

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Contact: Mark J Payne
mpayne@hersheys.com
717-534-5212
The Hershey Company
Source:Eurekalert

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