Hershey's Center for Health and Nutrition announced the publication of a study that shows resveratrol, the compound often associated with the health benefits of red wine, is also found in cocoa and dark chocolate products. In the September 24 edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientists report that cocoa powder, baking chocolate and dark chocolate all have significant levels of resveratrol, a naturally occurring antioxidant.
"This study shows that the levels of resveratrol found in cocoa and chocolate products is second to red wine among known sources of resveratrol and forms yet another important link between the antioxidants found in cocoa and dark chocolate to other foods," says David Stuart, PhD, Director of Natural Product Science at The Hershey Company who partnered with Planta Analytica to conduct this study.
In the study, top selling retail products from six categories were tested for the level of resveratrol and its sister compound, piceid. The six product categories included cocoa powder, baking chocolate, dark chocolate, semi-sweet baking chips, milk chocolate and chocolate syrup. Gram for gram, cocoa powder had the highest average amount of resveratrol and piceid, followed by baking chocolates, dark chocolates, semi-sweet chips, milk chocolate and then chocolate syrup. In the products studied, the level of piceid was 3 to 6 times the level of resveratrol.
When the cocoa and chocolate levels were compared to published values for a serving of red wine, roasted peanuts and peanut butter, resveratrol levels of cocoa powders, baking chocolates and dark chocolate all exceeded the levels for roasted peanuts and peanut butter per serving, but were less than California red wine.
"Resveratrol gained widespread attention in the early 1990s when it was identified in relatively high amounts in red wine, which is associated with the French Paradox," says Debra Miller, PhD, Director of Nutrition for The Hershey Company. "Despite eating a diet equally high in saturated fat as the typical American diet, the French were shown to have about one-third the level of cardiovascular disease. Continued research indicates that moderate consumption of red wine, along with fruits, vegetables, nuts and lower amounts of red meat, may contribute to this lower risk of heart of disease."
According to a review article published this month in Nutrition Reviews, resveratrol, a naturally occurring antioxidant, was shown to improve insulin sensitivity, blood cholesterol levels and have neuroprotective actions in animal studies. Further, the article states, studies in mice indicate that diets high in resveratrol were associated with increased longevity..
"Cocoa is a highly complex natural food which contains in excess of seven hundred naturally occurring compounds, with many more yet to be discovered," explains Jeff Hurst, the lead chemist on the project. "For years, flavanols, a different class of compounds in chocolate, received most of the attention, but these are quite different than resveratrol. It is exciting to see additional antioxidants identified in cocoa and chocolate."
The results of the survey show that cocoa powder, baking chocolate and dark chocolate contain on average 14.1 to 18.5 micrograms of resveratrol per serving while the level found in the average California red wine is 832 micrograms per glass. Roasted peanuts have an average of 1.5 micrograms and peanut butter13.6 micrograms of resveratrol per serving, demonstrating that cocoa and dark chocolates are meaningful sources of resveratrol in the US diet.