Healthy chocolate? Colombia's CasaLuker files patent for high-antioxidant cocoa powder

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / Ivenks
© Getty Images / Ivenks
Chocolate giant CasaLuker has developed a method to make cocoa powder with a high polyphenol content that can be used in cocoa-based food and beverage products and even supplements.

Writing in its international patent,​ the Colombian firm said the cocoa powder contained particularly concentrated levels of the polyphenol -epicatechin – up to 40% richer by weight than levels found in the original cocoa bean – offering great possibilities to develop healthy cocoa-based products.

“There is the need to have cocoa-based food products with a content of specific antioxidant substances which is sufficient to obtain certain health benefits,” ​CasaLuker wrote in the patent filing.

One of the general objects of the present invention is to provide a cocoa powder and cocoa-based products having a high content of antioxidant substances, especially polyphenols such as epicatechins and catechins.”

Gentler heat process

CasaLuker said the polyphenol content had been “retained or only partially effected” ​by avoiding the traditional process treatment of roasting, which denatured or oxidized the polyphenols. Instead of roasting, it said, infrared heating had been used to separate the bean from the shell.

Unfermented or under-fermented cocoa beans were firstly drained to reduce the action of microorganisms that initiate fermentation, then dried in sunlight and heated at a temperature of between 70-120°C for up to 30 minutes with infrared. The heated beans were then winnowed to separate the cocoa nibs from the shell and the nibs ground into a cocoa liquor that was then processed into cocoa solids and cocoa butter.

Chocolate cocoa heart © Getty Images NatashaPhoto
The majority of science into the potential benefits of cocoa has revolved around cardiovascular benefits of the flavanols (also known as flavan-3-ols or catechins), and particularly the monomeric flavanol (-)epicatechin. Additional studies have reported potential benefits for skin health, and even brain health. Image © Getty Images / NatashaPhoto

By processing the beans in this way, CasaLuker said it had “quite unexpectedly” ​managed to produce a powder with a higher -epicatechin content than what was found in the starting bean. Levels, it said, were always equal to or greater than 15g per kilogram and could even be as high as 33-45g/kg powder. Cocoa beans typically contained around 24g of -epicatechin per kilo.

The company said the -epicatechin levels in its cocoa powder were also higher compared to other cocoa powders on the market.

Better bioavailability

Maintaining such high levels of antioxidants in the final cocoa powder, it said, meant inclusion into food, nutritional products, dietary supplements and even the medical field held nutritional promise.

Importantly, because the powder was specifically high in -epicatechin – a monomer that had good absorption in the gastrointestinal tract, it therefore had better bioavailability compared to other polyphenols found in cocoa beans.

This improved bioavailability and therefore potent antioxidant power meant there was opportunity to use the powder in the treatment and prevention of various health conditions, it said, including Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, gene mutations, cancers and inflammatory diseases.

“...The invention provides a non-therapeutical or therapeutical use of the cocoa-based product or cocoa powder for reducing the cellular oxidative stress in an organism, especially a human being.”

CasaLuker is a major exporter of Colombian cocoa-based products, including beans, paste and butter. Its export products are made using cocoa beans from 'Fino de Aroma' growing regions in South America – a category established by the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) for cocoa that reaches certain flavor, aroma, and quality levels.

Source: WIPO International Patent No. WO2017208058
Published: December 7, 2017. Filed: June 3, 2016.
Title: “High polyphenols cocoa powder based products, uses and methods for the manufacture thereof”
Authors: CasaLuker S.A

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