Researchers, from Cornell University and Brunswick Laboratories, tested antioxidant activity of the three top selling brands of cocoa, baking chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate and chocolate syrup.
The highest levels of flavanols, which contain antioxidants, were found in natural cocoa powder. The team hopes the research will help consumers who may feel confused by different reports they read about antioxidants and how they are found in chocolate products.
One company that looks set to benefit from this information is Hershey, who sponsored the study and is currently launching a new cocoa label and antioxidant seal.
The American confectioner plans to communicate to the consumer that cocoa is a source of flavanol antioxidants, highlighting how its products are beneficial by using a seal that displays the total percentage of cocoa solids.
Flavanols are compounds that can be found naturally in some plant-based foods, including cocoa beans, which have for some time been known to be a concentrated source.
Antioxidants help neutralise free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage cells and DNA, and therefore protect your body against their destructive effects.
With Hershey's $4bn annual revenue and trusted brands worldwide, sponsored studies such as this may be the key to truly breaking into the healthy chocolate market.