Posts Tagged ‘cocoa’

How flawed science helped turn chocolate into a health food

November 11th, 2017
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A small and preliminary study was hyped to claim that chocolate fights Alzheimer’s.

Have you heard? Dark chocolate will do everything from boost your cognition to reduce your cardiovascular disease risk and even help you lose weight! Or so the chocolate science hype machine will tell you.

Several months ago, we got to wondering how chocolate candy had earned such a powerful health halo. So we dove into the science behind these claims about chocolate and cocoa to find out more.

In an original Vox analysis, we discovered that food companies like Nestlé, Mars, Barry Callebaut, and Hershey’s — among the world’s biggest producers of chocolate — have poured millions of dollars into scientific studies and research grants that support cocoa science. Of the 100 Mars-sponsored studies on cocoa, chocolate, and health, 98 had conclusions that were favorable to the candy maker in some way.

That’s an uncannily high number. And it raises questions about the quality of the studies, given that Mars and other chocolate makers can use the positive findings to market their products. Industry-sponsored studies are more likely than independent research to yield conclusions that favor the funder’s products.

In our review of the research, we found studies that were well-designed, well-executed, and that produced seemingly reliable results. (This was particularly true for the science on cocoa’s effects on blood pressure.) But some of the other claims don’t stand up as well when you look closely at the evidence.

One study in particular about cocoa staving off cognitive decline jumped out at us because it had sparked a small fracas on PubMed Commons, a site where researchers can comment on published studies. Several researchers took the time to critique everything from the study’s design and statistical analysis to how it was reported in the journal where it was published, Nature Neuroscience.

This Mars-sponsored study, led by researchers from Columbia University, was published in 2014. The researchers had wanted to test whether taking cocoa supplements might enhance a region of the brain called the dentate gyrus that deteriorates with age and is associated with age-related memory loss. They concluded that cocoa supplements — particularly the micronutrients called flavanols in them — can indeed boost cognition in older adults.

The research didn’t come out of a vacuum. Previous studies, particularly those focused on aging in rats, suggested flavanols might prevent cognitive decline. But upon closer examination, it became clear that this particular study was very small and preliminary — and that there were several problems with its design that made its results unreliable. That didn’t stop the chocolate hype machine, though. The paper was trumpeted by the Columbia University press office and large media outlets as more evidence that cocoa and chocolate can fight Alzheimer’s.

Ultimately, the study shows how scientists and the media have seized upon the narrative that chocolate is a health food — even when only the thinnest evidence supports the wishful claim.

The cocoa study was short, small, and focused on narrow outcomes that don’t matter to the real world

Before we dive into what made this Nature Neuroscience study suspicious, let’s look at what it was about. The researchers randomly assigned 37 people to one of four groups for a period of three months:

  1. A group that got a high daily dose (900 mg) of cocoa flavanol supplements as well as one hour of aerobic exercise four times per week
  2. A group that got the same high dose of cocoa flavanol supplements but without the exercise
  3. A control group that got a low dose of cocoa flavanols (10mg) with the one hour of aerobic exercise four times per week
  4. Another control group that got the low cocoa flavanol dose but without the exercise

So basically, the study participants either got a lot of cocoa flavanols or not, and added regular exercise to their lifestyles or not.

The researchers wanted to test whether cocoa flavanol supplements might stave off cognitive decline in the dentate gyrus region of the brain, which is associated with age-related memory loss. They also wanted to see if exercise had any effect on memory, since previous studies had suggested it might.

In the study, they found that exercise had no impact on brain function — but cocoa flavanols did. “Dietary cocoa flavanol consumption enhanced [dentate gyrus] function in the aging human hippocampal circuit,” they concluded. They also made extremely bold statements in the paper, even suggesting that the effects they saw in the high-flavanol group demonstrated that cocoa could reverse age-related memory decline by as many as three decades.

Columbia University’s newsroom touted the research as demonstrating that “dietary flavanols reverse age-related memory decline.” The research was then picked up by media outlets, including the New York Times, which trumpeted chocolate — not just cocoa dietary supplements — as a memory aid.

But here’s the thing: The study never actually proved that cocoa supplements, and especially not chocolate, could prevent memory decline. It was too small, too narrowly focused, and too short-lived to tell us anything important about real memory loss with aging, said Henry Drysdale, a doctor and fellow at Oxford University’s Center for Evidence-Based Medicine.

To track memory decline, the main outcomes the researchers used over a 12-week period were an fMRI test that looked at increases cerebral blood volume, as well as a cognitive function test — the Modified Benton — which was developed at Columbia to measure dentate gyrus function. The researchers who validated the test found that people’s performance on the ModBent worsened with age, so they had reason to believe that this test would be a good marker of whether flavanols could make a difference here.

“Saying if you eat cocoa supplements now you’re going to have better memory in three months is not relevant to real-world [age-related memory decline],” said Drysdale, who co-founded Oxford’s COMPare Trials project which examines the quality of clinical trials.

If you really want to answer that question, you’d run the trial for several years and you’d need a group of study participants that’s bigger than 37 people. Instead of only tracking the study participants’ brain waves in an MRI machine (which is not a measure of cognitive ability), or using an object recognition task (the ModBent) to test memory, you’d also want to measure outcomes that matter in people’s lives, like, whether those taking cocoa could remember what they did that morning or that they had a doctor’s appointment next week better than the people who didn’t take the cocoa, Drysdale added.

This trial only demonstrated that supplements seem to enhance brain function over a period of weeks, and only according to a very specific (and not very widely used) test of cognitive function. That is far from valid proof that cocoa is a memory enhancer.

The researchers did other things that made the results unreliable

Drysdale and other researchers who were not involved with this study also took issue with it for much nerdier reasons. There are problems with how the study was reported that made its results less likely to be reliable — and even less worthy of the hype.

For one thing, the published version of the study looks different from what the researchers originally said they’d set out to do for this trial.

To understand why this matters, let’s step back for a moment.

Before researchers embark on clinical trials, they’re supposed to name (or “pre-specify”) which health outcomes they’re most interested in on a public database, like

For an antidepressant, these might include people’s reports on their mood, or how the drug affects sleep, sexual desire, and even suicidal thoughts. Researchers then group the outcomes into “primary” and “secondary” categories — the primary outcomes being the ones they think are most important — and describe precisely how and when they are going to measure these things.

Scientists are then supposed to broadly stick to this plan when they run their trial, and report on their findings in a journal. If they deviate from their plan, they need to be transparent about it and explain why they did so in the final journal article.

The idea is that researchers won’t just change their plans along the way, or publish positive or more favorable outcomes that turn up during the study, while ignoring or hiding important results that don’t quite materialize as they were hoping. (That’s a sneaky practice called “outcome switching,” and it’s a big problem in science.) Following these steps also enhances the chances that the findings researchers report on are real, not the result of tweaking a study’s design to get splashier conclusions.

But this didn’t happen in the case of this cocoa study. has a handy version control function that lets you see all the changes that were made to a clinical trials registry over time. It shows that the researchers for this cocoa study changed their outcomes over time, and also failed to clearly pre-specify them before starting the trial. They then didn’t report about the changes they made in their final study, which was published in the prestigious journal Nature Neuroscience.

For example, if you look at the earliest version of their report, from 2010, the researchers stated that the primary outcome they were interested in was an fMRI test that measures cerebral blood volume. The secondary outcome they were going to look for was “neurocognitive function” — but they didn’t say which test they’d use to measure neurocognitive function. In the published trial, the ModBent appeared as a second primary outcome along with the fMRI.

“If you don’t pre-specify your method of measurement of an outcome — in this case ‘neurocognitive function’ — you are free to choose, consciously or unconsciously, from a range of possible outcomes,” said Drysdale. “You can then pick the outcome that makes your chocolate look good. That’s not to say authors will always do this with vaguely pre-specified outcomes, but the option is there.” In this case, the researchers settled on the ModBent task as their primary outcome (in addition to the fMRI).

I asked the authors on the study why they failed to fully pre-specify their outcomes, and why they didn’t report all the changes they made in their original plan in the final version of the report, like they’re supposed to do. They said they were new to entering clinical trials data on registries, and that they didn’t realize they had to declare changes they had made to their study design in the final study. Whatever the reason, though, these errors in reporting are likely to make their findings less reliable, said Drysdale.

If you look at the most recent version of their clinical trials registry, it was published in January 2015, three months after they published their Nature Neuroscience article. “So they went back after article was published in Nature and changed their clinical trial registry. There is no mention of this in the trial report,” Drysdale added.

To be clear, this cocoa study is not unique. Hype in research is on the rise, and outcome switching is common — as prevalent in industry-sponsored research as it is in independent academic research. But the paper shows how, consciously or unconsciously, studies can be tweaked and exaggerated in ways that can yield misleading conclusions.

“The bigger concern is that people are trying to do a better job of selling the research itself and not just telling what the straight out answer is,” University of Toronto nutrition researcher Richard Bazinet said. This study only showed that over a period of three months, in a small group, according to a very narrow test that taps a very specific region of the brain, cocoa supplements enhanced cognition. That became “chocolate fights Alzheimer’s” — a message Mars surely appreciated.




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Cocoa Of Excellence: Celebrating The Farmers Behind Chocolate

November 11th, 2017
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“Without cocoa, there is no chocolate,” says Brigitte Laliberté, the coordinator of the Global Network for Cacao Genetic Resources and the Cocoa of Excellence Programme (CoEx). “It’s as simple as this. Everything starts from there.” She’s right, yet every award honoring chocolate focuses on the end maker, not farmers. The celebrated outlier is the International Cocoa Awards (ICA), an event overseen by Bioversity International, a global research institution headquartered in Rome, Italy, focused on the conservation of biodiversity in food and agriculture. Farmers and the preservation of diverse varieties of crops are central to Bioversity’s mission, including the cocoa that becomes chocolate.

Every two years, CoEx brings together chocolatiers and sensory analysis experts to do blind tastings of processed cocoa samples. This year, the group received 166 samples of cocoa beans from 40 countries ranging from Australia and India to Madagascar and Sierra Leone, part of the equatorial belt where cocoa is grown. Last week in Paris, France, at the Salon du Chocolat, they awarded 18 of those entries with an ICA for their efforts and skill.

The goal of the Awards is to empower farmers by highlighting and celebrating the cocoa supply chain—and the quality and flavors that come from a combination of farmers’ knowledge, genetics, post-harvest processing and the many qualities of terroir, or the taste of place. However, the variety of tantalizing smells and tastes isn’t only about deliciousness. “Cacao diversity,” CoEx explains, “is also vital for production, as it provides not only different flavors, but also resistance to pests and disease outbreaks, and resilience in changing climatic conditions.

In the same vein as the Cup of Excellence awards for coffee, the International Cocoa Awards are also intended to help farmers command a higher price for their crop, which is what they need in order to keep growing cocoa. As Simran Bindra, the cofounder of Tanzania’s Kokoa Kamili (the first East African cocoa company to win an ICA), explains, “We’d spent a lot of time sitting under mango trees with the farmers and asking them: What would be most helpful? Would they be interested in access to loans? Would they be interested in agronomy training? Time and time again, we heard, ‘You know what we’d be interested in? We’d be interested in getting a fair price for our cocoa, for our hard work.’”

This seems basic, but, as previously reported, the majority of cocoa growers are extremely poor. The Cocoa of Excellence Programme strives to alleviate this challenge—and it seems to be working: in the annual evaluation survey, 57% of respondents confirmed that this initiative has helped farmers sell their cocoa at a premium price.

“Just because a farmer only owns a quarter-acre or a half-acre of land in a rural part of a poor country, that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be treated equally and fairly with the respect and commitment to ethical business practices that a much larger farmer in a more developed country would receive—or that a customer at a chocolate shop should receive,” Bindra says. “We’re eager to continue our work in making sure Tanzania is recognized as among the best cocoa origins. Hopefully, it will result in more interest from chocolate makers around the world.”

A full list of International Cocoa Award winners can be found here.




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What’s the real cost of chocolate?

November 11th, 2017
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Chocolate is the “food of the gods,” a sweet treat for many across the world, and a booming industry worth an estimated $110 billion a year. But as we unwrap a favorite bar or tuck into a truffle, how many of us take the time to think about where it came from, and who helped in its transformation from the humble cocoa bean?

Most of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa, with more than a third coming from the Ivory Coast alone. Cocoa is grown mainly on small, family-owned plantations by farmers living in poverty.
By contrast, most of the world’s chocolate is consumed in the wealthy regions of Europe and North America.
Chocolate may be big business, but its key ingredient, cocoa, is cultivated by some of the poorest people on the planet. While demand for cocoa is growing to the point that some experts warn we may run out of affordable supplies within 20 years, the farmers who grow it earn a tiny proportion of the price we pay at the grocery store – and their share has dropped sharply over the past 35 years.
Cocoa beans grow in pods, directly from the trunk of the cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao, or “food of the gods.”) One tree produces between 20 and 30 pods a year, each containing 20 to 50 almond-sized cocoa beans. A year’s harvest from one tree – processed into cocoa liquor, cocoa butter or cocoa powder — is enough to make up to 500g of chocolate.



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From cocoa to chocolate in an entertaining and didactic way

November 11th, 2017
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The children’s vacations are over and the school year has already started. Now, time to study! But before returning to school, many have had the privilege of learning about cocoa and Venezuelan chocolate in an entertaining and didactic way, as it took place at the vacation plan offered by the Chacaomarket in Miranda state.

There, about 18 children in the 5 to 12 age range, from the same neighbourhood and also from other sectors such as Quinta Crespo and La Florida as well as children of some shopkeepers of the market, participated in the activity that was led by the teacher and chocolate entrepreneur Lissett Jiménez.

A transformational process

The subject chosen for this sweet gathering was “From cocoa to chocolate”, in which the youngsters received information about the whole process involved in chocolate making, from the seed to the finished product in its different chocolaty presentations or by-products.

“It was an activityto get to know the history of cocoa, the description of all processes to make chocolate, the different types of the product and the tempering techniques” said Belkys Rodríguez, assistant at the recreation centre. “We also visited the shopkeepers who display their chocolates in the market”.

Rodríguez emphasised that Venezuela possesses one of the best cocoa in the world and that its processing and transformation is so special that she does not hesitate to recommend that cocoa is a subject to be imparted at all Miranda state schools, and beyond.

The Children’s recreation centre at Chacao market is part of a network of municipal recreation centres which are framed in what is known as Chacao Municipio Lector. Two other centres are located in the Library of Los Palos Grandes and in the Bello Campo Park.

Once again, cocoa and Venezuelan chocolate are integrated into the schedule of a vacation programme in the country. Their importance grows, so it does thesense of belonging towards a seed, pride of adults and children.



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What’s the Difference Between Cocoa & Cacao?

September 23rd, 2017
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Sure, you love chocolate, but can you tell these ingredients apart?

Most people love the rich, creamy taste of chocolate, but not everyone knows the difference between cocoa and cacao.

The chocolate flavor most of us think of is based on cocoa, which comes from the beans of the cacao tree. Cocoa is processed into cocoa powder, cocoa butter and, of course, chocolate chips. With its sweeter flavor, cocoa is a more common ingredient than cacao in desserts like fudgy brownies and rich chocolate cakes.

The purer form of chocolate is called cacao. It comes from the same source as cocoa, but you can find it in cacao nibs and specialty bars. It’s also a superfood with many antioxidants—in case you needed another reason to give it a try.



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Why chocolate is good for your gut

September 23rd, 2017
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Chocolate lovers, rejoice; the sweet treat is not only delicious, but studies show that it can also promote friendly bacteria and reduce inflammation in our guts.

First, some background: trillions of bacteria live in our guts. They contribute to our immune system, metabolism, and many other processes essential to human health.

When the delicate balance of microbes in our intestines is disturbed, it can have serious consequences.

Irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, allergies, asthma, and cancer have all been linked to abnormal gut microbiomes.

A healthful diet supports bacterial diversity and health, but could chocolate be an integral part of this?

Benefits of cocoa

Cocoa is the dry, non-fatty component prepared from the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree and the ingredient that gives chocolate its characteristic taste.

Many health benefits have been attributed to cocoa and its potent antioxidant functions. These include lowering cholesterol, slowing down cognitive decline, and keeping the heart healthy.

Cocoa metabolism is partly dependent on the bacteria that live in our intestines.

Our bodies are only able to absorb some of the nutrients in chocolate. As such, we need our tiny microbial passengers to break complex molecules into smaller components, which we would not be able to take into our bodies otherwise.

This allows us to make full use of the many health-promoting molecules in cocoa. It doesn’t stop there, however. The gut microbes also benefit from this relationship, which, in turn, has an even greater effect on our health.

Gut health and inflammation

Several studies show that the consumption of cocoa increases the levels of so-called friendly bacteria in the gut.

Researchers from the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom measured higher levels of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species in the intestines of human volunteers who drank high-cocoa chocolate milk for 4 weeks.

The same team previously showed that components in cocoa can reduce the growth of Clostridium histolyticum bacteria, which are present in the guts of individuals with inflammatory bowel disease.

In pigs, higher levels of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species were also found in the colon in response to a high-cocoa diet. Interestingly, the expression of known inflammatory markers was reduced.

Friendly bacteria including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium have, in fact, been implicated in actively promoting anti-inflammatory processes in our intestines, keeping our gut healthy.

Chocolate as part of a healthful diet

Despite the fact that these scientific studies support the claim that cocoa can be beneficial for our gut microbiomes, cocoa does not equal chocolate.

The cocoa extracts used in research do not contain the high levels of sugar and fat found in our everyday chocolate bars.

Unsweetened cocoa powder or high-cocoa content dark chocolate are the closest alternatives to the cocoa used in these studies. Consumed in moderation, chocolate may therefore promote friendly bacteria, and, by extension, a healthy gut, keeping inflammation at bay.

When choosing your next chocolate treat, join the Medical News Today editorial team in their choice and opt for a nice piece of dark chocolate.



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Chocolate Boosts Your Brain Power, New Study Finds

July 8th, 2017
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Italian scientists have found that a daily dose of cocoa acts as a dietary supplement to counteract different types of cognitive decline.

They found regularly eating cocoa was linked to improvements in working memory and visual information processing and cocoa could be particularly beneficial for certain people.

Cocoa, is the dried and fermented bean from the cocoa tree used to make delicious chocolate treats. Cocoa has been studied extensively because, well, who wouldn’t want that job.

Over the years, it has been found that a range of naturally occurring chemicals in the cocoa bean have therapeutic effects.

For example, polyphenols in dark chocolate were found to increase calmness and contentedness and flavanols were able to reverse age-related memory decline.

Before you start using this an excuse to scoff as much chocolate as humanly possible, just remember that chocolate also contains theobromine, a toxic chemical. Though to be at risk of poisoning yourself, you’d have to eat about 85 full sized chocolate bars.

Despite the large number of claims about the health benefits of cocoa, there are only a limited number of randomised trials and the literature is a mixed bag of results.

In this study, the team looked through the literature for effects of acute and chronic administration of cocoa flavanols on brain activity and, more specifically, what happens if you do this over a long period of time.

The studies used to perform the review mainly required the subjects to consume a low, medium or large amount of cocoa in the form of a chocolate drink or bar for a period of between five days and three months.

The scientists found that there was enough evidence to support the health claims attributed to cocoa, and, in particular, the flavanol compounds it contains.

They noticed enhancements in working memory performance and improved visual information processing after consuming cocoa flavanols. The benefits varied depending on the demographic being tested.

For the elderly, it turns out that long term ingestion of cocoa flavanols improved attention, mental processing, working memory and verbal fluency and was most beneficial in those who had mild cognitive impairments or the beginnings of memory loss.

“This result suggests the potential of cocoa flavanols to protect cognition in vulnerable populations over time by improving cognitive performance,” wrote the researchers from the University of L’Aquila in Italy, including Valentina Socci and Michele Ferrara.

For healthy people, without the beginnings of memory loss, cocoa could also enhance normal cognitive functioning and have a protective role on cognitive performance. The researchers admit that you have to push the healthy subjects a little harder before that benefit starts to become significant.

One demographic in particular benefited from cocoa.

For women, eating cocoa after a night of total sleep deprivation counteracted the cognitive impairment associated with no sleep. Promising results for people that suffer from chronic sleep deprivation or work different shift patterns.

But how exactly does cocoa help with brain power?

The researchers aren’t completely sure, but do have some ideas.

“If you look at the underlying mechanism, the cocoa flavanols have beneficial effects for cardiovascular health and can increase cerebral blood volume… This structure is particularly affected by ageing and therefore the potential source of age-related memory decline in humans.”

So should you start shovelling chocolate into your mouth? Perhaps, but it comes with an obvious warning.

“Regular intake of cocoa and chocolate could indeed provide beneficial effects on cognitive functioning over time,” say the researchers.

“There are, however, potential side effects of eating cocoa and chocolate. Those are generally linked to the caloric value of chocolate, some inherent chemical compounds of the cocoa plant such as caffeine and theobromine, and a variety of additives we add to chocolate such as sugar or milk.”

Despite the risk of gaining a few extra kilograms, the scientists are happy to listen to their own advice and conduct a little bit of self-experimentation.

Dark chocolate is a rich source of flavanols. So, we always eat some dark chocolate. Every day.”

I can’t think of health advice I’d be happier to listen to.

The findings were reported in Frontiers in Nutrition.



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A glossary of cocoa and chocolate terms. 55 terms to know

January 21st, 2017
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For chocolate producers and master chocolate makers, these words are part of their usual language, but what about the rest of people who go crazy for a good chocolate and are anxious to know more about cocoa and chocolate jargon?

From, and by the hand of the Agricultural Engineer from FUNDACACAO, Andreina Portillo, we invite you to satisfy your curiosity and discover the meaning of terms that you may have heard at some point. We assure you that after understanding them, it will be much easier and funnier to be close to an expert and talk about the subject.

  1. Analogous of chocolate: It is the uniform product prepared with cocoa powder, vegetable fat, starch, cocoa butter added or not, cocoa liqueur, sugar, sweetener, milk solids and allowed additives (COVENIN 3585: 2000).
  2. Bean to bar: this trend became popular in North America for more than a decade, and refers to the artisan, but refined, way of making chocolate bars. Hence its literal translation is “from grain to bar”.
  3. Good Agricultural Practices (GAP): It is a set of principles, standards and technical recommendations applicable to the production, processing and transportation of food, aimed at ensuring the protection of hygiene, human health and environment, using methods ecologically safe, hygienically acceptable and economically feasible.
  4. Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP): it is a compilation of general rules, procedures and practices that together provide a guide to what is acceptable and unacceptable within the food industry.
  5. Cocoa: It is a tropical tree from the Amazon jungles. It has a dense crown, the adult leaves are completely green, its flowers, on the stem or branches, are white or rosy, the fruit is a pod. The cocoa tree usually reaches a height between 6 to 20 metres.
  6. Criollo cocoa: It is characterised by a fruit often elongated, with a prominent, bent and sharp end. Its surface is generally rough, thin, and often green splashed with red or dark purple and marked by 10 very deep grooves. The beans are large, thick, almost round with white or very slightly pigmented cotyledons (Navarro and Mendoza, 2006). It is the type of cocoa with more flavour and aroma of all.
  7. Cocoa slime: It is the cocoa bean after being harvested and placed in a plastic container with a capacity of approximately 18 kg. This container is called a cocoa can. The yield rate of each can of cocoa should be between 6.2 to 6.5 kg of dry cocoa.
  8. Extra-fine cocoa: It is the cocoa bean obtained from a variety of trees called “criollos”, with soft, pinkish white cotyledon almonds, whose beans are well fermented (higher than 70%), with almost circular cross-wise section, and that complies with the established requirements, free of odours different from its characteristic one as well as any other adulteration sign.
  9. Fine aroma cocoa: according to Álvarez et al. 2007, it is defined as almonds with high aromatic potential and other sensory benefits that make them so different from others. The Fine cocoa has distinctive aroma characteristics and low content of bitter substances.
  10. First class fine cocoa (fermented or F1): It is the cocoa obtained by fermented hybrid beans from cocoa Trinitarian Forestero (also called Forestero in Venezuela) that have been fermented to a degree greater or equal to 80%. Free from unusual odours and any other sign of adulteration.
  11. Second class fine cocoa (fermented, common, ordinary, or F2): It is the cocoa obtained by hybrid beans from Trinitarian Forestero cocoas (also called Foresteros, in Venezuela), which differ from the first class fine cocoa in the fermentation degree, since its beans have not been fermented or the process has been done in an inappropriate way.
  12. Forestero cocoa: Its fruit is generally oval-shaped and short, green or yellow when is ripe, with a smooth surface. The pericarp is thick and difficult to cut. Its beans are small and kind of flat and its colour is between light and dark purple (Navarro and Mendoza, 2006). They are more resistant to the environment and the plagues, but their flavour and aroma are not as remarkable as it is Criollo cocoa.
  13. Trinitarian cocoa: It is a hybrid between Criollo and Forestero. The Trinitarian cocoa shares characteristics from both groups. The colour of the almonds varies between the white from the Criollo and the dark one from the Forestero (Navarro and Mendoza, 2006). Likewise, they hold aromatic features much more relevant than the Forestero.
  14. Cauliflorous: Cocoa is cauliflorous, since its flowers and fruits are produced on the stem and branches of the tree.
  15. Chocolate: It is the homogeneous product prepared from cocoa liqueur, cocoa butter, with or without added sugar, sweeteners, milk solids, vegetable fat up to 5% and allowed additives (COVENIN 52: 1999)
  16. White Chocolate: I is a kind of chocolate made with cocoa butter combined with milk powder and sugar. It does not use cocoa liqueur in its preparation.
  17. Milk chocolate: It results from the combination of cocoa liqueur, cocoa butter, milk powder and sugar. It contains approximately 35% of cocoa liqueur. Its main ingredients are milk powder and sugar.
  18. Cup Chocolate: It is a dark chocolate with a little starch added, so it can thicken. Normally it dissolves in milk.
  19. Dark chocolate, black, bitter or bitter: It is the result of the combination of cocoa liqueur, cocoa butter and sugar. It must contain at least 45% of cocoa liqueur.
  20. Chocolate coating: It is used by bakers and chocolate makers to make desserts. It is chocolate with a content of 30% of cocoa butter.
  21. Conchage: It is the process of intense stirring and ventilation of the chocolate paste for several hours at a temperature ranging from 70 ° C to 90 ° C.
  22. Orthotropic growth: vertical growth of the cacao tree.
  23. Plagiotropic growth: horizontal growth of the cacao tree.
  24. Cocoa derivatives: products obtained from the husked cocoa, such as: cocoa paste, cocoa cake, cocoa butter as well as mixtures of these products with sugar and / or optional ingredients.
  25. Husking: It is the removal of the almond shell either manually or mechanically.
  26. Fermentation: It is the process of eliminating the slime or mucilage of cocoa and the production (within the almond) of precursor substances of chocolate flavour and aroma.
  27. Cocoa bean: It is the almond inside the cocoa pod, healthy, clean, already fermented or not, dried, husked and without mucilage (COVENIN 50: 1995, 2nd revision).
  28. Fermented bean: It is the almond that when cut lengthways by the cross section, shows on both sides of the almond well defined and deep grooves, with a very fragile dark brown husk (forestero and trinitarian cocoas) and light brown (Criollo cocoas ).
  29. Germinated bean: It is the cocoa bean whose husk has been broken by the growth of the seed radicle, exposing it to the attack of fungi and insects (COVENIN 50: 1995, 2nd revision).
  30. Mouldy bean: It is the bean showing moulds in its internal or external parts which can be seen at a glance (COVENIN 50: 1995, 2nd revision).
  31. Partially fermented bean: This is the cocoa bean which, when cut lengthways by the cross section, shows shallow grooves on both sides of the almond, compacted edges, mildly fragile dusky red-brown husk (Trinitarian and forester cocoas) and light brown (Ciollo cocoas).
  32. Slaty bean: it is the cocoa bean, when is cut lengthways by the cross-section, shows a smooth and compact texture mass, generally in slaty or dark colour (COVENIN 50: 1995, 2nd revision).
  33. Flat grain or “pasilla”: It is the cocoa bean whose two cotyledons are so fine that it is not possible to obtain a cotyledon surface when it is cut, meaning that the thickness between its two flat faces measures less than 5 mm. (COVENIN 50: 1995, 2nd revision).
  34. Grains damaged by insects: This is the cocoa bean showing insects inside or outside, detected at any stage of development (eggs, larvae, adults) or that it has been attacked by insects damaging the almond observably (COVENIN 50: 1995, 2nd revision).
  35. Dry cocoa beans: It is the grain which has been uniformly dried and whose moisture content is between 7 to 8% (COVENIN 50: 1995, 2nd revision).
  36. 36. Pod index: It is the quantity of pods needed to obtain 1 kg of fermented or non-fermented and dried cocoa.
  37. Seed index: It is the average weight of 100 beans of fermented or non-fermented and dried cocoa.
  38. Grafting: It is the most used asexual propagation in cocoa cultivation. It consists in joining a bud of a tree (crown) with ideal features with a plant (pattern) produced in a nursery, which is more resistant to the effects of unfavourable conditions. The new plant will be similar to the one where the bud was taken.
  39. Innocuousness: it is the guarantee that the product will not cause any harm to the consumer, when it is prepared or ingested, depending on its intended use.
  40. Cocoa liqueur (dough or cocoa paste): It is the product obtained by grinding fermented or unfermented cocoa beans, roasted, husked, without germs and contaminants (COVENIN, 1480: 1998, 2nd revision).
  41. Processed cocoa liqueur: It is the product obtained by grinding the fermented or unfermented cocoa beans, roasted, husked, without germs and contaminants, which may or may not be added alkaloid, acidifier and emulsifier agents (COVENIN, 1480: 1998, 2nd revision).
  42. Linalool: It is a terpene with an alcohol group whose natural form is common in many flowers and aromatic plants. This component of the volatile part of cocoa plays an important role in the perception of the floral characteristic and is commonly known as “Arriba” flavour, a unique feature of the National variety.
  43. Cocoa butter: It is a semi-solid product, with a greasy aspect at room temperature, white or slightly yellowish, obtained from the processing of cocoa beans through mechanical extraction or by solvents.
  44. Alien bodies and matters (contaminants): It refers to any substance other than cocoa beans, such as cord pieces, stones, insects and wood or stick bits, among others.
  45. Cocoa nibs: They are pieces or tips of roasted cocoa obtained after the seeds are toasted and husked, and finally crushed or chopped.
  46. ??Drying yard: Area for drying the beans either after fermentation or harvesting. These are usually built in cement or softwood.
  47. Pruning in cocoa: This is a technique used to eliminating all shoots and unnecessary branches, as well as the damaged and dead parts of the tree. It is a quite important cultural work due to its direct effect on the growth and production of this crop.
  48. 48. Cocoa powder: It is the product obtained by the pulverization of the cocoa cake.
  49. Cutting test: It is a method of cutting the cocoa beans lengthways and performing a visual analysis of both sides of the cotyledon in order to establish any possible defect as well as the fermentation degree (COVENIN, 424-1995).
  50. Drying: It is a stage in the cocoa processing in which any excess of moisture is removed from the beans by heating and the formation of chocolate aroma and flavour is completed.
  51. Tempered or warmed-up: It is the process by which the chocolate undergoes several temperature variations in order to cause the crystallization of the fat (cocoa butter) which is formed by four crystals: Gamma, Alpha, Beta and Beta `.
  52. Cocoa cake: It is the product obtained from isolating the butter and the cocoa liqueur by pressure (COVENIN, 1479: 1998, 2nd revision).
  53. Traceability: It is the ability to follow the history, application or location of everything under consideration. It is the monitoring of the origin of materials and parts, the processing, distribution and location history of the product after delivery (ISO 9000: 2000).
  54. Tree to bar: It means “from the tree to the bar”. In this way it is necessary the correct application of good agricultural practices.
  55. Cocoa nursery: It refers to the place where cocoa seedlings are previously formed, for its subsequent planting in the final soil.




Cargill report highlights latest trends in cocoa and chocolate

December 6th, 2016
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Cargill’s cocoa and chocolate business has released its comprehensive report highlighting key trends in chocolate.

Based on insight gained from interactions with customers across numerous application categories, and on information gathered from projects with customers through Cargill’s application centres, the report highlights trends across four key themes: indulgent; premium; healthy; and sustainable and clean.

Cargill’s four trending areas


Today’s consumer is looking for an ever-more indulgent experience, across flavour, texture and colour, inspiring new levels of creativity in sweet foods around the world. In flavours – vegetable and chocolate combinations are becoming popular across a range of categories, for example kale flavour fillings in chocolate bars and chocolate featuring alongside beetroot in cakes.

Texture is also evolving towards more indulgence, with larger chocolate chunk inclusions as well as new combinations of textures such as crispy chocolate layers on top of creamy desserts.

Cocoa powder is increasingly being used to play with shades and add depth of colour.


Demand for premium products is at an all-time high, with provenance and origin being key among cocoa and chocolate products. Besides specifying the origin of cocoa or chocolate, manufacturers increasingly highlight on the pack the country where the end-product was manufactured, satisfying consumers’ desire to buy local products. Inspiration from the artisanal industry is also observed. Processes behind the product are becoming more prominent on packaging – with details included such as ‘stone ground’ or ‘slow churned’ and even the conching time of chocolate.


How diet affects health and wellness is increasingly on consumers’ minds, leading them to avoid ingredients perceived as unhealthy, and look for those perceived as healthy. Besides the long standing trend for sugar reduction and gluten free, lactose free claims are increasingly being observed in cocoa and chocolate products, with milk alternatives such as coconut milk increasing in popularity. Looking at ingredients seen as beneficial, the trend for protein is still booming and becoming mainstream, breaking free from the sports nutrition niche and focusing on satiety rather than sports recovery.

Sustainable and clean

Where food comes from, how it is produced, and its true ethical and environmental cost, really matter to today’s consumer. Certified chocolate products are becoming more popular and spreading their reach out from chocolate tablets into dairy, bakery, biscuits and ice cream. Answering consumers’ needs for more transparency, clean and clear labelling is also more important than ever. In the quest to remove e-numbers, real fruits and plant extracts are being increasingly used to naturally colour products.

Niklas Andersson, Cargill European marketing director for cocoa and chocolate, said: “Whether working in confectionery, biscuits, bakery, cereals, dairy or ice cream, our report provides real insights that can help manufacturers get a head start on the competition when creating new products and innovations.

“Today’s discerning consumer is looking beyond value for money. They are better informed than ever before and, as our research demonstrates, they consider the contents of their food and its impacts on the future more than ever before. In short, they want food that tastes good, is good, helps them to be good and does good.”



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Food scientists are trying to engineer milk chocolate to be as healthy as dark chocolate

November 5th, 2016
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Chocolate_o_s_sidePeople are always eager for good news about chocolate. That made us sitting ducks two years ago, when Harvard science journalist John Bohannon fooled the world by publishing a “study” that showed chocolate could help you lose weight. He watched the fake story and flimsy science get picked up by legitimate news outlets globally before finally confessing that he had conned the media to prove a point about irresponsible science journals and journalists.

With that cautionary tale in mind, I suggest we all take the latest chocolate development—that US Department of Agriculture researchers, in partnership with North Carolina State University, have found a way to boost the nutritional content of milk chocolate—with a grain of (smoked sea) salt. Not because the science is faulty, but because the promised novel form of chocolate doesn’t make milk chocolate a health food.

It’s understandable that researchers would look for ways to give sweeter, more popular milk chocolate a piece of dark chocolate’s good-for-you halo.

Dark chocolate contains more cocoa than milk chocolate, which means it also offers more of the bean’s health-supporting flavonoids. Eating small amounts of dark chocolate consistently—most studies use chocolate made from 70% cocoa—has been found to lower cholesterol levels and improve blood sugar levels in the body, improve mood by reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and boost heart and brain function. The polyphenol epicatechin in cocoa is a particularly potent antioxidant known to improve blood flow by prompting blood vessel cells to release higher amounts of nitric oxide. (For this reason, eating dark chocolate could even enhance your workout.)

In order to try jack milk chocolate’s healthfulness factor, the scientists added an ingredient that doesn’t sound immediately appealing: extracts of discarded peanut casings, a waste product of the peanut industry.

Added to milk chocolate, the peanut skin extracts bring with them phenolic compounds that offer antioxidant properties similar to that of dark chocolate. “The compounds in peanut skins are the very same ones found in other sources such as cocoa, tea and cranberries; that is catechin, epicatechin and procyanidins,” says Lisa Dean, food technologist and lead author of the study. The scientists encased the peanut skins in the starchy food additive maltodextrin, which camouflaged their flavor, making the difference between treated and untreated milk chocolate undetectable in the study’s 80-person blind taste test. (They have not yet tested the dosed chocolate with people who have peanut allergies.)

“There are published studies that have shown that extracts from peanut skins are anti-inflammatory in cell culture, have cholesterol lowering effects in rats, and have antioxidant effects in chemical tests,” Dean adds, noting that, “if the compounds themselves are the cause of the health effects, then the effects will be the same, regardless of the food source.”

So could the new enriched milk chocolate be as healthy as dark chocolate? Not really. Yes, it would offer the same antioxidant levels, but it would still contain higher amounts of sugar and milk solids than dark chocolate. Then again, dark chocolate bars can also contain larger than recommended amounts of sugar, too, and that refined sweetener, which has been tied to its own, much more elaborate publishing scandal, is worse for us than we knew.



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