(NaturalNews) A common process used to make cocoa more easy to digest and to mix into other foods eliminates approximately two-thirds of the flavanols originally contained in the plant, according to research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Cocoa has attracted increasing attention recently as a health-enhancing food, with studies finding that the high flavanol content has benefits in preventing cardiovascular disease. In response, the chocolate industry has poured large amounts of money into obtaining further evidence of these benefits.
Dark chocolate has a much higher flavanol content than milk chocolate, and many chocolate products are now prominently labeled for their high cocoa content. Because the high sugar and fat content of chocolate bars can introduce other health problems, outweighing any benefits from the flavanols, a number of cocoa-powder based products have also hit the market in recent years.
Researchers analyzed the flavanoid content of 10 batches of cocoa powder for both flavanols (quercetin, quercetin-3-glucuronide, quercetin-3-glucoside and quercetin-3-arabinoside) and monomeric flavanols (epicatechin and catechin). They then submitted all 10 batches to alkalization, a process that is a common part of the cocoa product manufacturing process.
They found that the overall flavanoid content of the cocoa was reduced 60 percent by the process. The highest loss among the monomeric flavanols was in epicatechin, with a 67 percent reduction. Among the flavanols, the highest loss came from quercetin, with a striking 86 percent drop.
The levels of flavanoids found in the cocoa powder after processing were comparable to those found in several major brand cocoa powder products available in Spain.
"The large decrease found in the flavonoid content of natural cocoa powder, together with the observed change in the monomeric flavanol profile that results from the alkalization treatment, could affect the antioxidant properties and the polyphenol bioavailability of cocoa powder products," the researchers wrote.