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EFSA strikes a blow against cocoa health claims

By Jane Joseph , 29-Oct-2010

The European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA) has struck a blow to the confectionery industry by saying there is not enough evidence to support a link between cocoa flavanols and some of the often touted health benefits.

EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) looked at various scientific studies relating to the effect of cocoa flavanols on maintenance of normal blood pressure, and protection of lipids from oxidative damage.

The NDA indicated that much of the evidence was contradictory. Looking at maintenance of normal blood pressure, the panel said that evidence from small and un-blinded studies with lower doses in favour of an effect was in conflict with evidence from adequately powered and well-controlled studies. Evidence from blinded studies with lower doses was also said to be conflicting.

In regards to protection of lipids from oxidative damage, the panel said that although one acute study reported significant changes in plasma concentrations of total F2-isopostanes after a single administration of cocoa flavanols, this effect was not confirmed when cocoa flavanols were consumed daily for three to six weeks. It also saw no effect on plasma concentrations of oxidised LDL particles.

However, confectionery giants Mars and Barry Callebaut remain steadfast in their belief that cocoa flavanols have a positive effect on human health.

Mars stressed its commitment to scientific research, pointing out that it has published some 130 papers on the subject.

“In fact, evidence in several dozen cocoa flavanol research papers clearly shows vascular effects, and this could have a profound effect on public health,” said a spokesperson. “Mars will continue our commitment to a high level of robust cocoa flavanol research.”

The company is also ‘encouraged’ that EFSA rejected the health claims because of the evidence that was submitted. The panel did not state that cocoa flavanols have no benefit to human health, said the spokesperson.

Barry Callebaut said the EFSA opinion will have no effect on its business and that it will continue to do clinical work on cocoa flavanols “since we believe that there are healthier alternatives to standard chocolate”.

Spokesperson Raphael Wermuth highlighted numerous studies linking its Acticoa product, a proprietary blend of high-antioxidant cocoa and chocolate ingredients, to health benefits such as skin hydration and elasticity.

Barry Callebaut has also stressed a high level of consumer interest in ‘healthy’ chocolate products.

Last year, the company said one in four Western consumers are interested in products with physical or emotional health benefits, according to earlier data gathered in Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, the UK and the US.

The survey revealed that 21% of consumers across the six countries are interested in chocolate that has added functional ingredients.

These matters and more will be discussed at the second NutraIngredients Health Claims 2010 conference to be held in Brussels on December 1. The conference will deconstruct the latest article 13.1 claim opinions, hear first-hand experience from players like Kellogg’s, outline regulation-coping marketing strategies, and feature comparison with the US claims system from leading industry figure, Dr Andrew Shao.

 

For more details click here.

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