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Eat Chocolate and Lower Your Cholesterol Levels at the Same Time

Everybody loves chocolate, who doesn't? Unless you are allergic to it. Almost every month, new research conducted on chocolate is published proving that chocolate is good for you and can even keep the doctor away

Even though chocolate already contains beneficial compounds for our health, scientists have been working on integrating other chemicals in chocolate which can reduce the levels of potentially harmful chemicals in our body, such as cholesterol.
Infographic: Click to enlarge.

In a study conducted in the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, researchers have produced phytosterol-enriched dark chocolate, as a potential functional food, which can lower cholesterol.  Before this can even reach the public, the enriched chocolate has to go through several trials. In one of the researchers’ trials, they aimed to test the oxidative stability of the dark chocolate bar containing phytosterols. The oxidative stability of the samples was evaluated during 5 months at 20°C and 30°C.

First of all what are phytosterols?

Phytosterols are compounds that are similar to cholesterol, which occur in plants and vary only in carbon side chains and/or presence or absence of a double bond. They are found in seeds, vegetable oils and cereals.  Phytosterols have the ability to reduce cholesterol levels in the body. Phytosterols reduce cholesterol levels by competing with cholesterol absorption in the gut via one or several possible mechanisms.

Because of their cholesterol reducing properties, some manufacturers are using sterols or stanols as a food additive. Phytosterol-enriched foods and dietary supplements have been sold for decades.

How did they make the chocolate bars?

The “control” Belgian Praline chocolates (30 g – 15g shell and 15g filling) were formulated by mixing cocoa powder, cocoa liquor, palm oil, polydextrose, rice protein, cocoa butter, xylitol, maltitol, hazelnut paste, erythritol, soy lecithin, polyglycerol polyricinoleate, nut flavor, sucralose and nut flavour.

Two different formulations were produced to test the oxidative stability of phytosterols: PHYT and PHAN. Since palm oil is usually used to prepare the filling, they replaced palm oil with two different plant sterols. In the PHAN group of chocolates, ascorbic acid and α-tocopherol were also added into the filling formulation (0.90 mg/100 g of chocolate).

So what did they find?

Based on the results from the study, the researchers found that the plant-sterol-enriched chocolate bars attained all relevant aspects for a satisfactory functional food development and can even be stored for up to 150 days without significant modifications in their nutritional and sensory profile. The daily intake of 1 bar (30 g) provided about 2.2 g of PS esters, which is higher than the amount required by the FDA (1.3 g).

Supplements in food not pills...

The chocolate bar developed in this study did not contain sugar and it was formulated with 50 g/100 g of cocoa, therefore it could potentially be useful for individuals with dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome.