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High flavanol chocolate: Which cocoa flavanols are the best?

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By Oliver Nieburg+

Last updated on 09-Jul-2014 at 11:46 GMT

Are some cocoa flavanols more potent than others?
Are some cocoa flavanols more potent than others?

Epicatechin is the gold standard cocoa flavanol says a medical doctor, but Barry Callebaut claims all flavanols have a positive effect on cardiovascular health.

Barry Callebaut last year won an EU-approved health claim to say that 200 mg of cocoa flavanols in a maximum of 20 g of dark chocolate contributes to normal blood flow.

There are different types of flavanols found in cocoa including single molecules known as monomers such as catechin, epicatechin and larger oligomers known as procyanidins.

But does it matter which flavanols are present in the chocolate?

‘Epicatechin is the most important one’

“Flavanols are important as a class,” said Claudio Ferri, director of the School of Internal Medicine, University of L’Aquila. “Probably based on some in vitro findings and even own findings it is likely that catechins and particularly epicatechin is the most important one. But you can obtain similar results from the whole class of flavanols.”

Ferri was among the panel at ConfectioneryNews’ 'Vitafoods Live!' debate on ‘Cocoa flavanol science and the potential for better-for-you chocolate’ in Geneva Switzerland on Tuesday 6 May 2014.

We asked the professor if it was problematic that a high cocoa flavanol chocolate could possibly contain a low level of epicatechins.

 “Obviously it might be a problem but this is a problem of the manufacturer…I must assume that manufacturers as Barry Callebaut prepare the chocolate product by maintaining a good amount of epicatechins and the whole class of flavanols,” he said.

Oligomers also important

Ieme Blondeel, project innovation lead of Acticoa, Barry Callebaut’s flavanol preserving chocolate, reponded that the effect of monomers like epicatechin was enhanced in chocolate when oligomers were also present.

 “Not only the small ones but also the bigger ones have a role to play.”

He added that there was a reduction in all flavanols during processing.

We see that the small flavanols, the monomers, are equally reducing as the bigger ones. So it’s not like if you process harshly that you lose all of the smaller flavanols…it’s equally reducing.”

“So it is impossible to have a chocolate on the market with only monomers or with only oligomers.”

According to a 2003 analysis by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), a typical 100 g bar of dark chocolate contains 41.50 mg of epicatechin and 11.99 mg of catechin. The same amount of milk chocolate contains an average of 10.45 mg of epicatechin and 2.90 mg of catechin.

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