Researchers are always looking for new ways to improve our health and make food more enjoyable and sustainable for us. New research suggests that chocolate may be able to contain much less fat with the help of a little electricity. This would allow candy companies to offer their most prized treats to people who may not previously have indulged themselves in the tasty treats either due to nutrition concerns or because of health-related dietary restrictions.
Researchers ran liquid chocolate through an electric field, making it flow far more easily. When the chocolate can flow easily on its own, less fat is required to hold it together and give it the sturdy design that so many of us have come to love. The industry has long searched for ways to cut the fat out of chocolate, making it more accessible to all types of people, including those with health conditions where fat is extremely limited. This newest approach was described on Monday at the Temple University of Philadelphia by researchers within the study.
Chocolate, during production, is handled like a liquid that includes solids like cocoa suspending in melted fat and oil according to the paper that was released by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. They claim a certain level of fat is required in order for chocolate to easily flow so that it can be processed properly. The team discovered that an electric field can help to encourage natural flow without the need for additives. Researchers were able to use this strategy in order to reduce the amount of fat by about 10 percent. In theory, they should be able to reduce it by twice that much as well.
The electric field is made up of tiny balls of cocoa solids that are clumped together into chain-like structures. This setup allows for much easier flow. The work has been financed in part by the Mars chocolate company and Temple currently holds patents on the technique itself.
Researcher Rongjia Tao says he was not able to taste any difference between the standard chocolate and pieces that were electrically manipulated. Others in the lab tasted a difference, saying they preferred the chocolate that was treated with the new method, as its flavor was improved.
Mary Ellen Camire, professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Maine in Orono was not involved in the project. She says the paper leaves quite a few important questions unanswered. There has been no scientific evaluation of how the treatment affects the taste and the texture. The researchers also did not test whether or not the treated chocolate would maintain its structure and flavor after a period of time held in storage.
The team still has quite a bit of work to do, but they have their hopes up. This kind of technique is something they would like to continue to experiment with and expand. One day this method could be used in a variety of other food applications, offering much healthier options for people to enjoy.