Fermenting Cacao Enhances Health Benefits

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Fermenting cacao beans to make chocolate decreases the amount of healthy antioxidants polyphenol by as much as 18%. So shouldn’t chocolate made from unfermented cacao beans increase the health benefits of chocolate? Scientists at Penn State explored this hypothesis. The results were surprising. 

“In fact, just the opposite,” says Joshua Lambert, professor of food science at Penn State who led the study. “We found that some of the most processed samples seemed to have the largest positive impact on mice in this research. The aim of this study was to compare the effect of fermentation and roasting protocols on the ability of cocoa to mitigate obesity, gut barrier dysfunction and chronic inflammation in high-fat-fed, obese mice.”

The results, published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, detail how the health of mice was affected after being fed dietary cocoa powder. Groups of obese mice were fed seven different dietary supplements of cocoa powder over eight weeks. Those seven powder supplements were formulated from different bean processing techniques, ranging from no fermentation and no roasting to various combinations and temperatures.

The mice’s weight reduced by up to 57% eating cocoa powder, regardless of the bean’s fermenting and roasting techniques. Their gut permeability (an important contributor to development of fatty liver disease) also reduced by up to 79%. The gut intestinal microbiome also improved.

Lambert explains, when mice get cocoa as part of their diet, the compounds in the cocoa powder reduce the digestion of dietary fat. When it can’t be absorbed, the fat passes through their digestive systems. Lambert hypothesizes this process may occur if humans are given cocoa. 

Read more (Penn State)