Dark chocolate has been much on the news lately thanks to research on the healthy potential of its high antioxidant content. Barry Callebaut has devised a process with which it says it can preserve more of the natural polyphenols than is possible through conventional methods.
So far chocolate produced using this process, called Acticoa, has been marketed mainly on the basis of its high polyphenol content and health benefits associated with polyphenols. But with positive results from a pre-clinical trial in which rats that suffered oxidative stress and were fed the chocolate were seen to live considerably longer than rats that received a placebo, the company is paving the way to market it to the burgeoning anti-ageing market.
The study was conducted on 60 Wistar-Unilever rats, which were randomly divided into four groups of 15. A control group was not subjected to oxidative stress and received a placebo, while the other three groups received either 24mg of Acticoa per kg of body weight or a placebo for two weeks prior to being subjected to oxidative stress, and throughout the course of the experiment.
The groups that received the Acticoa and was subjected to oxidative stress was seen to have 30 per cent increased longevity compared to the group that received the placebo and was subjected to oxidative stress - almost the same as the control group.
The Acticoa oxidative stress groups were also seen to have higher food and water consumption rates, compared to the placebo oxidative stress group.
Herwig Bernaert, innovations manager fundamental research, told NutraIngredients.com that the study is currently making its way through the publication approvals process. He was unable to reveal journal details at this time.
He said that the company decided to communicate a brief of the findings prior to publication because the company is "very proud of them".
"To our knowledge, this is the first report proving that cocoa polyphenols produce such benefits in rats," said research co-ordinator Jean-Francois Bisson, PhD, director of the department of cancerology and human pathologies at ETAP Research Centre in France.
"Given the results of the present study and the findings of others, there is evidence that suggests that the daily consumption of small amounts of cocoa or chocolate rich in cocoa polyphenols may offer some protection against chronic oxidative stress and increase lifespan of humans," he added.
Bernaert said that the chronic oxidative stress experienced by some animals is comparable to the effect in humans, as in both an increase in free radicals has an impact on longevity. Not only have polyphenols been seen to neutralise this effect, but an impact has also been seen in healthy animals.
While replicating the rat study in humans is not feasible for Barry Callebaut since it would take decades to compete, Bernaert said the next stage for the company is investigations to determine the polyphenols' effect on certain biomarkers that have an impact on ageing.
"Ageing is one of the global issues,"< /I> he said. "The point is for people to get older and enjoy that they are living longer."
The company has previously investigated the effects of Acticoa chocolate on cognition, in both pre-clincal rat trials and human clinicals.
According to Barry Callebaut, dark chocolate produced using the Acticoa method can contain as much as 6 per cent cocoa polyphenols, and milk chocolate 2.1 per cent.
In both cases Bernaert said that this is at least double that found in normal chocolate.
In terms of ORAC value, 40g of normal chocolate is said to be equivalent to a 140ml glass of red wine or one cup of tea. However just 10g Acticoa chocolate is reported to be equivalent to the same servings.