Most of us have heard of Willy Wonka’s everlasting Gobstoppers and enchanting three-course meal chewing gum, but unfortunately they’re imaginary. In real life, chemistry allows for some wild confectionary innovations like Pop Rocks and face-puckering War Heads. But would you unwrap a bar of chocolate that looks and tastes like chocolate, while claiming to be a heckuva lot less fattening?
What’s the Deal?
Scientists at the University of Warwick have created a chocolate bar with a new technology that cuts fat and sugar. Infused with fruit juice, the chocolate bars have half the fat of a standard chocolate bar (it’s unclear how researchers defined this exactly) with what the makers say is a smooth, silky texture. The research team, led by Dr. Stefan A.F. Bon, unveiled their chocolatey research this past weekend at the 245th National Meeting and exposition of the American Chemical Society. The researchers hope the food industry will use this technology to make lighter chocolate bars (and possibly other candy) go mainstream.
In a TEDx talk published in late March, Dr. Bon explained that the juice (apple, orange, and cranberry) is infused into the chocolate in the form of micro-bubbles (literally, itty-bitty bubbles), which allows the chocolate to retain its characteristic velvety texture and ability to melt. The fruit infusion even helps prevent sugar bloom — or the yucky white film that coats chocolate when it’s been sitting on the shelf for too long (but seriously, who has that problem?). The chemist-created chocolate also uses a gelling agent called agar to help it stay velvety smooth.
Dr. Bon’s team tried out the technology on milk, dark, and white chocolate. While the researchers say the newfangled chocolate’s texture is on par with traditional varieties, they admit that it doesn’t taste exactly like chocolate. We haven’t tried samples, but Dr. Bon says it tastes like what it is: a chocolate and fruit juice hybrid.
Is It Legit?
Possibly. When eaten in moderation, traditional chocolate can be a healthy treat — so we’re not entirely convinced that a high-tech variety is needed. Cacao, the base of chocolate, has been found to lower blood pressure, improve circulation, and reduce the risk for diabetes and coronary heart disease Cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease. Katz, D.L., Doughty, K., Ali, A. Yale University Prevention Research Center, Griffin Hospital, Derby, Connecticut. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling 2011;15(10):2779-811. Cocoa, blood pressure, and vascular function. Sudano, I., Flammer, A.J., Roas, S., et al. Current Hypertension Reports 2012;14(4):279-84. Effects of chocolate, cocoa, and flavon-3-ols on cardiovascular health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials. Hooper, L. Kay, C., Abelhamid, A., et al. Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2012;95(3):740-51..
Still, at the end of the day, chocolate is chocolate. Most bars of the stuff feature high fat and sugar contents, especially when milk and sweeteners are added to the mix. Even dark chocolate, revered for its antioxidant flavenoids, has around 12 grams of fat per one ounce serving, along with a lot of sugar. For those watching their calories, a chocolate bar with less sugar and fat might be the ticket to indulging a sweet tooth — but it’s important to note that “low fat” doesn’t necessarily mean “healthy,” or even less caloric. (At this point, the researchers haven’t released the exact calorie counts for their product.).
We’re not so convinced fruit-infused chocolate will evoke the same magical experience as a trip down Willy Wonka’s chocolate river with your mouth agape below the chocolate waterfalls. And if you ask me, I’d likely eat double the chocolate if I saw it had half the calories. We have to admit, though, there’s likely not a whole lot of harm in making chocolate a less sugary treat.