Theo Innovations debuts flavanol-rich cocoa extract

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Chocolate Flavonoid

Theo Innovations debuts flavanol-rich cocoa extract
Seattle-based Theo Chocolate has launched the first functional ingredient from its subsidiary Theo Innovations.  Called Violetamine, the product is an extract of cocoa high in polyphenols and theobromine.

The branded ingredient’s name comes from its deep purple color, said Stefan Wypyszyk, vice president of Theo Innovations.  Purple is a color associated with polyphenols, to which the product is standardized a 10% level, he said.

Among the polyphenols in the product are cocoa flavanols, which have a variety of health properties, Wypyszyk said. The product has the highest concentration of epicatechins to total catechins of any chocolate product on the market. Although many different polyphenols are present in dark chocolate, emerging research has identified epicatechin as the primary cocoa flavonol linked to the observed health benefits of dark chocolate.

“There are a variety of health benefits that are supported by the scientific literature. The benefit with the most scientific support is cardiovascular health and the elasticity of arteries,” ​Wypyszyk told NutraIngredients-USA.  “There is also support for improving cholestrol and for vasodialation.”

In addition to its cardiovascular health benefits, this last property makes the ingredient potentially attractive for sports nutrition formulations, Wypyszyk said.  Finding a plausible method for activing the nitric oxide system is one of the goals for many sports performance formulations, and cocoa flavanols seem to do the trick. A 2003 study by researchers at the Harvard School of Medicine​ concluded “flavanol-rich cocoa induced vasodilation via activation of the nitric oxide system.” 

Synergistic benefits

But Wypyszyk said Violetamine offers benefits that straight nitric oxide formulations don’t, and that’s due to the presence of theobromine, a xanthine alkaloid that is similar in structure to caffeine.  Theobromine stimulates the heart rate, while the vasodilating effect of the flavanols servers to prevent a consequent increase in blood pressure, he said.

“There is a synergistic effect between these compounds.  That is part of the reason taht chocolate has been associated with an elevation of mood and a sense of well being. There is evidence of increase blood flow to the brain,” ​Wypyszyk said. 

Gentle extraction

Theo Innovations makes Violetamine via a propriety water extraction process.  Wypyszyk was unwilling to go into too many details, as the company is in the process of obtaining a patent.  But he did say the process uses mostly off the shelf equipment and techniques in a new way that very gently extracts the polyphenols and other compounds from the raw cocoa powder.  Polyphenols are a class of compounds not known for high stability, and Wypyszyk said the company’s process preserves these molecules as they would be found in a raw cocoa bean.

The process also yields a fairly mild tasting ingredient too, he said.  The ingredient is aimed at the dietary supplement market, but it’s mild taste and solubility profile means it could be used in a functional beverage as well, Wypyszyk said.

“Because the raw material is handled differently and you don't have the heavy roasting you end up with a product that has more floral notes with a very light chocolate taste,”​ he said.

Varying dosages

As far as efficacious doses are concerned, Wypyszyk said that depends on the indication a customer is shooting for and the application in which the ingredient will be used.

“There is a wide range of dosages depending on the study you are basing your formulation on the indication you are looking at.  The dosages used in the studies go anywhere from 45 mg up to 900 mg of flavanols, depending on whether you are looking at gut health, cardiovascular health or looking to increase blood flow to the brain.  We are able to give customers guidance on that based on what they are doing and whether they are using it in another matrix such as combining it with a grape seed extract,”​ he said.

The ingredient is also being marketed by Nutregrity, the human nutrition division of Omega Protein under the Cocoanol brand name, Wypyszyk said.

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