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Is fat free chocolate on the way?

Published : Friday August 17, 2012 | Posted in : General Health

It's been a good week for chocolate lovers. If it wasn't enough that a new report confirmed on Wednesday that dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure, scientists at the University of Warwick claim that they have produced what could be called the holy grail of confectionery: great tasting chocolate with half the fat.

The former news should be taken with a pinch of salt. Right here on this very blog we've pondered the supposed health benefits of chocolate and why there is such a focus in research terms on determining just what these benefits may be. Essentially, while it is certainly a good thing that dark chocolate can marginally lower blood pressure – as has been suggested by this report – this benefit does not outweigh the fact that chocolate is not in any way a healthy food. The fact that the sugar and fat content in most varieties of chocolate is extremely high is reason enough to limit the consumption of chocolate to snack times and as a treat. Discovering that one form of chocolate can have a very minor beneficial effect does not change this.

But could all that be about to change? A group of scientists right here in the UK seem to think so. A team at the University of Warwick have created chocolate that contains 50% less fat than normal while still maintaining its great taste and texture. They have achieved this by replacing half of the fat content – that is, much of the milk fats and cocoa butter – with fruit juice. The juices of choice – orange and cranberry – were infused into the chocolate in the form of tiny droplets (30 microns in diameter) using a method known as Pickering emulsion.

Previous attempts to create a "fat free" or "fat lite" version of chocolate have for the most part been unsuccessful because taste or texture tends to be compromised when the fat is taken out of the equation. The fruit juice technique overcomes this problem by simple chemistry; it maintains what is known as the Polymorph V structure, which gives chocolate its distinctive texture and melt-in-the-mouth quality. However, the scientists have admitted that the chocolate created using this method "will taste fruity".

The lead author of the study, Dr Stefan Bon, called the research "the starting point to healthier chocolate" by establishing a technique for the food industry to develop. This is certainly a promising step in the road to healthier chocolate, which would surely be a hugely successful product if it really did maintain the taste and texture that make chocolate so popular.

Would you try this "fruity" chocolate? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

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