Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Is it not interesting that yesterday's villain becomes a hero all of a sudden? This is what is happening to chocolate products which are now being positioned as a health promoting food and if the EU Authorities approve this claim, it may as well as start a new trend by the industry to look for positive health conferring ingredients in each and every food it will develop in future. It is not that the antioxidant rich cocoa was not recognized as a rich source of flavonoids with properties to help fight oxy radical generation in the human body and prevent potential damages to the immunity of the body. But conversion of Cocoa into consumable chocolate products entails addition of a lot of sugar and cocoa butter diluting the flavonoid content very significantly. Most industrial products based on cocoa beans end up as carriers of sugar and saturated fat, a fatal combination to "destroy" health. The new trend in increasing cocoa solid content and producing dark chocolates is considered desirable as they contain much less sugar compared to normal products. Here is a take on this new development.    

'"A major Swiss chocolate maker is hoping to give cardiovascular patients a good excuse to reach for a chocolate bar and is asking Europe's highest food safety authority to approve a health claim linking cocoa flavonoids with improved blood flow. In an interview with online  trade publication last week, a company spokesperson for premium chocolate supplier Barry Callebaut said the company is confident that the European Food Safety Authority will approve the claim based on the results of five clinical studies conducted and finalized last year. Flavonoids are plant-based antioxidants found in brightly colored foods like blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, red beans, nuts, red wine and tea. They've been associated with a decreased risk of age-related and chronic diseases. Healthy blood flow has become an emerging trend in functional foods recently, with a spate of food manufacturers developing products that claim to help clean the arteries and reduce LDL or bad cholesterol levels. One of the pioneering artery cleaning products on the market, Fruitflow, is a tomato-based extract that was the first to win EU approval for its nutritional health claims under a section reserved for proprietary and newly emerging science. Meanwhile, other chocolate makers have also clued into the strategy of delivering powerful health benefits via the sweet confectionery".

Though flavonoids are health-friendly phytochemicals found in many colored foods like fruits and berries, nuts, vegetables, etc their actual utilization in human body is constrained by the complex chemical structure some them have and therefore any health claim needs to be supported by actual scientific data generated through clinical studies. There are very few such products which can be really called health foods if this criterion is strictly applied. It is good that the new claim about chocolate is backed by clinical studies and such scientific evaluation may become the industry standard for making health claims for newly developed food products. 


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