Cocoa beansthe source of
chocolate in a cacao pod. Click the image for more information about
In Chocolate, More Cocoa Means Higher Antioxidant
Capacity By Jim
Core April 4, 2005
Cocoa powder contains more beneficial antioxidants than other
chocolate products, but processing decreases their contents.
Those are the results of a study by Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientists and their cooperators interested in the total antioxidant capacity
(TAC) and procyanidin levels of six chocolate and cocoa products: natural
(unsweetened) cocoa powders, Dutch processed (alkalinized) cocoa powders,
unsweetened baking chocolates, semi-sweet chocolate baking chips, dark
chocolates, and milk chocolates.
Chocolate and cocoa powder are derived from beans that contain hefty
quantities of natural antioxidants called flavonoids. The researchers found
natural cocoa contains the highest capacity of the antioxidant procyanidin.
Antioxidants are thought to be effective in helping to prevent cancer, heart
disease, and stroke.
Prior, an ARS nutritionist at the
Children's Nutrition Center (ACNC) in Little Rock, Ark., presented the
study's results in San Diego, Calif., today with Liwei Gu and Xianli Wu of ACNC
Harnly, a chemist at the ARS Beltsville (Md.)
Nutrition Research Center. They presented the findings at
Biology 2005, an annual meeting that brings together 16,000 biological and
biomedical scientists from dozens of different disciplines.
The researchers found natural cocoa powders contained the highest
levels of TAC and procyanidins, which were found to be the dominant antioxidant
in chocolates. Milk chocolates, which contain the least amount of cocoa solids,
had the lowest TAC and procyanidin levels. Baking chocolates contained fewer
procyanidins, because they contained more fat (50-60 percent) than natural
cocoa. Alkalinization, used to reduce the acidity and raise the pH of cocoa,
such as Dutch chocolates, was found to markedly reduce procyanidin content.
Researchers concluded that chocolates containing higher amounts of cocoa
ingredients have higher procyanidin contents, therefore, higher antioxidant
Nine major manufacturers provided commercially available chocolate and
cocoa samples and the National Institute of
Standards and Technology provided its Standard Reference chocolate for
analysis. The study was partially funded by a grant from the
American Cocoa Research Institute.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.