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Healthy chocolate ‘breakthrough’: Lycotec develops ingredient to unlock cocoa’s health potential

By Oliver Nieburg , 07-Jun-2012
Last updated the 07-Jun-2012 at 14:40 GMT

Lycotec's ingredient Coco-Lycosome claims to boost the epicatechin content in chocolate that has been linked to health benefits
Lycotec's ingredient Coco-Lycosome claims to boost the epicatechin content in chocolate that has been linked to health benefits

Biotech firm Lycotec has developed an ingredient that it claims can harness the health potential in both dark and milk chocolate and lead to products with anti-ageing, injury recovery and increased physical performance properties.

The company has developed high potency chocolate with its Coco-Lycosome ingredient, which is derived from natural sources that are already approved for food consumption in the EU, that boost the presence of epicatechin, a part of cocoa flavanols that has been linked to health benefits.

The potential

Speaking to ConfectioneryNews.com, Lycotec CEO Ivan Petyaev said that the ingredient could be added at 1% levels at the melting stage to increase the bioavailability of epicatechin by 20 times.

He said that previous studies on the health potential of cocoa flavanols, all related to dark chocolate, but he claimed that by adding Coco-Lycosome to a milk formulation could boost epicatechin levels, which are usually three times lower than dark chocolate.

“We can make milk chocolate as beneficial as a dark chocolate,” he said.

He added that a 5g modified chocolate would deliver the same benefits as a 100g bar, which could appeal to health-conscious consumers looking to eat smaller amounts.

Extended shelf-life for products chocolate containing nuts is an extra benefit, he added.

Composition

Coco-Lycosome is composed of either lycopene, found in tomatoes or watermelons, or lutein, which is found in spinach and kale.

“We use the most famous American food products, cacao and tomatoes, to have enhanced properties,” said Petyaev.

Cocoa Epicatechin concentration in blood serum after 1 hour of ingestion of dark chocolate with (red) or without (blue) Coco-Lycosome (example from cross-over study) Source: Lycotec

These ingredients protect epicatechin from gastrointestinal factors which can diminish the health benefits, he said.

According to Petyaev, lycopene has proved more effective in boosting epicatechin, but would be more expensive.

He said that Coco-Lycosome would cost around 1 to 2 pence (GBP) per daily dose per person.

Health implications

The ingredient has been analysed in chocolate in three clinical trials involving 50 people of senior age, according to Lycotec.

“We can improve the microcirculation and oxygen delivery,” said Petyaev.

He claimed this would lead to reduced cellulite inflammation that could improve skin for the elderly.

Petyaev added that increased oxygen delivery would also be of interest for athletes to prevent hypoxia during strenuous physical exercise.

He conceded that epicatechin was not yet established as the source for health benefits in chocolate, but called for further studies to assess the health impact using larger volumes.

Distribution and interest

Lycotec has patented the technology to produce Coco-Lycosome and plans to license it and supply ingredients through a partner.

Petyaev said the company was currently in negotiation with two ‘major’ ingredients suppliers in Europe and the US, and had received a proposal from India to distribute in Asia.

Asked about interest from major players, Petyaev said: “Nobody from Mars, Hershey or Nestle has been in contact yet,” adding that he had not made contact as he was unfamiliar with the industry.

Background

Coco-Lycosome was developed after Petyaev received calls from the National Institute of Health in Washington after the US government was looking for ways to slash health bills by improving injury recovery for war veterans.

Petyaev found that the best vehicle to deliver his solution for improving recovery time for brain injury and stroke sufferers was through chocolate. A study on his findings is due to be published and a medical trial will commence later this year.

During his discovery, Petyaev found that the ingredient could increase the flavanol activity in chocolate and lead to benefits beyond injury recovery.

Petyaev expects the ingredient to be used in premium chocolate products that carry a marketing message, though he warned that labeling claims could be a challenge. He added that the ingredient may one day obtain government subsidization due to its anti-ageing properties, making it cheaper.

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