What will be the next cocoa health claim?

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Could improved cognition and metabolism be chocolate health claims of the future?
Could improved cognition and metabolism be chocolate health claims of the future?

Related tags Health claim Nutrition Barry callebaut Cocoa

‘Neuroprotective effects’ and ‘improved metabolism’ could be the next health claims for cocoa and dark chocolate after Barry Callebaut’s heart health win, according to a medical doctor.

Barry Callebaut last year won an EU-approved health claim to say that 200 mg of cocoa flavanols in cocoa beverages or dark chocolate contributed to normal blood flow.

At ConfectioneryNews’ recent 'Vitafoods Live!' debate on ‘Cocoa flavanol science and the potential for better-for-you chocolate’ in Switzerland,  Claudio Ferri, director of the School of Internal Medicine, University of L’Aquila was asked what the next health claim for cocoa could be.

“The most important field of research at present is related first to cognitive function…and on the ability of cocoa to protect neurons against Alzheimer’s disease. And in my opinion the second aspect that has been observed in different studies, including our study, is the metabolic protective effect of cocoa.”

Cocoa and cognition

Research published by Ferri and others in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension ​in 2012 found that cognitive functioning, including memory and processing speed, improved in elderly study participants with mild cognitive impairment when drinking a high flavanol cocoa drink daily.

Ferri said at the Vitafoods debate that the same effects could be achieved with dark chocolate.

Other research by Ferri analyzed the metabolic effects of regular cocoa intake.

 “These populations are characterized not by obesity or overweight, they are lean and the presence and incidence of diabetes - as in the population eating or drinking coffee - is lower than the population that don’t use cocoa,” he said.

EFSA cocoa no-no's

  • Cocoa – maintains normal body weight (2009)
  • Cocoa – enhances mood (2011)
  • Cocoa flavanols – protects lipids from oxidative damage (2010)
  • Cocoa flavanols – maintain normal blood pressure (2010)

A 2005 study​ by Ferri found significantly lower insulin resistance in healthy study participants that consumed dark chocolate compared to white chocolate.

In 2009, The European Food Safety Authority​ (EFSA) said there was not enough scientific evidence to substantiate an Article 13.1 health claim to say that cocoa maintains normal body weight. The authroty had considered the claim for a dried bean extract: at least 800 mg per day.

Is Barry Callebaut looking at further claims?

Ieme Blondeel, project innovation lead of Acticoa, Barry Callebaut’s flavanol preserving chocolate, said that his company’s existing claim on blood flow was the number one claim a company could have on food products.

“Our first focus is to make this a commercial success so at the moment we are not looking outside of this. However, we support all studies around cocoa…but this is our main objective: to make this a commercial success. If it is, why not go for a second or third health claim?”

Biotech firm Lyctoec recently told this site that it was readying a dossier to apply for an EU-approved health claim on cholesterol lowering chocolate.

It is hoping to give credence to a claim that its L-tug ingredient – derived from red fruit - when added to chocolate, directs lipid particles to a specific part of the liver to be broken down and excreted from the body.

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