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New method for analysing cocoa flavanols

May 4th, 2012

A method for the analysis of flavanols in cocoa has been developed by researchers from Mars. The method identifies and quantifies the distinct stereochemical forms of flavanols found in cocoa and chocolate products. Foods rich in flavanols are increasingly recognised for their ability to exert positive effects on the cardiovascular system, but investigations have shown that the distinct chemical structure (stereochemistry) of a flavanol influences its absorption, metabolism, and consequently its ability to exert beneficial effects. This validated method could therefore have important implications for future investigations.

Data from epidemiological studies and dietary interventions demonstrate that flavanol rich foods can have a positive impact on cardiovascular function and health. Importantly, however, the flavanols in foods have different stereochemical forms, specifically (–)-epicatechin and (+)-epicatechin, and (–)-catechin and (+)-catechin. Some of these forms, notably (–)-catechin and (+)-epicatechin, are present in foods almost exclusively as a result of food processing.

However, these stereochemical changes are more than just interesting chemical conversions. Previous research has identified (–)-epicatechin as a critical, biologically active component of cocoa that is capable of mediating improvements in cardiovascular function. A collaborative study published in January 2011 by researchers from the University of California, Davis and Mars went one step further and revealed the crucial importance of flavanol stereochemistry. Specifically, the 2011 study highlights that, of the stereochemical forms of epicatechin and catechin, (?)-epicatechin is the most absorbed by the body – almost six times more than (–)-catechin. This clear demonstration of the profound impact of stereochemistry on flavanol absorption reinforces the need to identify and quantify the exact flavanol forms present in foods when considering their cardiovascular health impact. The recently published Journal of AOAC International paper provides a validated method for exactly this.

Source: Confectionery Production

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