Theobroma cacao L., the Food of the Gods: a scientific approach beyond myths and claims.Pharmacol Res 2010; 61(1):5-13PR
Cocoa beans are rich source of polyphenols, contributing about 10% of the dry weight of the whole bean and its derivative chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, is considered one of the major contributors of antioxidants to the American diet after fruits and vegetables. At present the wide variation in cocoa processing and in the content and profile of polyphenols make it difficult to determine to what extent the findings about positive effects expressed in different studies, translate into tangible clinical benefits. Moreover, before claiming any healthy properties to a plant, natural product or food item on human subject, a basic research project approved by scientific and ethical commissions has to be performed. Until now the definition, composition, manufacturing specifications, packaging and labelling of cocoa and chocolate products in Europe, are regulated by "Directive 2000/36/EC of the European parliament and of the council". The definitions take changes in consumer tastes, chocolate composition and labelling into account, but do not consider the real potential of healthy, beneficial and nutraceutical effects. In fact, they fail to establish an official analytical methodology for the quantification of phenolic compounds in cocoa and chocolate. Moreover quantification of these compounds is not used in product classification. This article reviews many qualitative differences of cocoa and chocolate, in particular dark chocolate, aiming to establish the different implications for public health through the use of the analyzed concentration of polyphenols in cocoa products.