A new study sponsored by The Hershey Company in conjunction with Cornell University and Brunswick Laboratories confirms that all products containing natural cocoa have flavanol antioxidants. The study also found that the level of antioxidants in commonly available chocolate products is directly related to the amount of natural cocoa contained in that product.
"The results are in: the more natural cocoa, the more flavanol antioxidants," said Debra Miller, senior nutrition scientist, The Hershey Company. "This study helps clear up the confusion surrounding flavanols in chocolate by showing the clear link between natural cocoa levels and flavanol antioxidant levels. These findings are particularly important for consumers, given the growing interest in the antioxidant benefits of cocoa and dark chocolate."
Researchers have long known that natural cocoa is one of the best sources of flavanol antioxidants. The Hershey study, presented at Cornell's Functional Foods, Bioactive Compounds and Human Health Conference, provides useful information on flavanol antioxidants. Researchers measured the antioxidant activity of the three top-selling brands of cocoa, baking chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate and chocolate syrup.
Products were analyzed at Brunswick Laboratories, an independent research lab in Wareham, Mass., and at Cornell University labs. The results showed that the greater the natural cocoa content, the greater the flavanol antioxidant levels. The highest flavanol levels were found in natural cocoa powder, followed by unsweetened baking chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate and, finally, chocolate syrup.
The results of the research are supported by recently announced USDA results. "The data from the Hershey study are very similar to results from our own lab," said Dr. Xianli Wu, scientist at USDA Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center in Little Rock, Ark.
Hershey is introducing a new cocoa label communicating that cocoa is a natural source of flavanol antioxidants. Hershey also will debut a new seal listing the total percentage of cacao solids, i.e., the percent of ingredients in the product that are derived from the cocoa bean, in select dark chocolate products such as Hershey's Special Dark and Hershey's Extra Dark chocolates. Both steps are designed to help consumers better identify which cocoa and chocolate products contain higher levels of flavanol antioxidants.
"More and more consumers are becoming aware of the natural antioxidant benefits of cocoa and dark chocolate," said Tom Hernquist, senior vice president, president U.S. Confectionery, The Hershey Company. "The new cocoa label and seal and the results from this study help provide consumers with more information about flavanol antioxidants in cocoa."