The findings – published in two separate research papers by the same team – suggest that while chocolate can be a reliable carrier for functional compounds such as the omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), the source of these oils, and the way in which they are encapsulated and delivered have a huge impact on product quality.
Led by Omer Said Toker from Yildiz Technical University, the Turkish research team worked in collaboration confectionery giant Tayas Food to investigate the effects of omega-3 fatty acids addition in different forms (powder, microencapsulated powder, oil and triglyceride) and from different origins (microalgae and fish) on the quality characteristics of white and dark chocolate.
The team noted that the selection of suitable food products for carrying omega fatty acids is critical – since the fatty acids are less stable against external factors such as temperature, light, and oxygen.
Work on both studies was funded the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey, alongside Tayas Food Company and DSM Nutritional Products, Turkey.
“The use of EPA/DHA in different forms and origins affected the colour saturation, after taste and overall acceptance of the samples [of white chocolate],” said the team – who added that results showed that it is possible to produce white chocolate of desired quality through the use of EPA and DHA from an algal origin, and when used in a free flowing powder form.
In a separate paper focusing on dark chocolate formulation Toker and his colleagues reported that microencapsulated EPA/DHA added chocolate ‘was the most preferred source’ while samples produced with algal oil showed the lowest acceptability.
“This study showed that dark chocolate can be successfully fortified with EPA/DHA without causing negative effects on quality parameters of conventional chocolates,” they concluded.
“In industrial applications, deviations in quality parameters due to fatty acid composition need to be optimised by further studies,” they added. “For this purpose, it is particularly useful to carry out studies on particle size, amount of lecithin and PGPR.”
Additionally, the team noted that the use of EPA and DHA from different encapsulating materials can be considered – noting that varying encapsulation form can impact the stability properties of the bioactive compounds may further improve chocolate quality.
“In addition, the use of bulk sweeteners (eg. maltitol and isomalt) or fillers in place of sucrose in dark chocolate to be used as carrier for EPA and DHA should also be investigated to determine the effects on the quality characteristics of the chocolate,” they added.
Omega-3 levels: Enough for a claim?
According to the team behind the study, the levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the final samples may be enough to enable an authorised health claim on both white and dark chocolate containing EPA and DHA – although this may depend on the size of end product.
Indeed, Toker and his team revealealed white chocolate the team achieved maximum EPA and DHA contents of 226.8 and 54.3 mg, respectively, per 25 grams of chocolate. Meanwhile, in dark chocolate the maximum levels seen were 121.9 and 79.3 mg for EPA and DHA respectively, per 25 grams of chocolate.
According to EFSA guidelines, products must provide a minimum of 250 mg EPA and DHA coimbined, per day in order to be able to claim they are “a source of omega-3 fatty acids.” This is also the level set for the EFSA approved claim that ‘EPA and DHA contribute to the normal function of the heart’. Meanwhile other authorised health claims relating to EPA, and particularly DHA, require significantly higher daily intakes for authorised use.
White Chocolate Study:
Source: LWT - Food Science and Technology
Volume 87, January 2018, Pages 177-185, doi: 10.1016/j.lwt.2017.08.087
“Developing functional white chocolate by incorporating different forms of EPA and DHA - Effects on product quality”
Authors: Omer Said Toker, et al
Dark Chocolate Study:
Source: Food Chemistry
Volume 254, 15 July 2018, Pages 224-231, doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2018.02.019
“Formulation of dark chocolate as a carrier to deliver eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids: Effects on product quality”
Authors: Omer Said Toker, et al