Scientists have found a way to literally zap the fat right out of chocolate and supposedly it actually tastes good. By running liquid milk chocolate through an electrified sieve, researchers reduced the amount of fat by 20 percent.
Working with Mars Inc., one of the world’s largest chocolate manufacturers, a consulting firm contacted Rongjia Tao of Temple University. They wanted advice on how to improve the viscosity of liquid milk chocolate. Tao and his team began developing a method of making chocolate flow easier through pipes without adding additional cocoa butter.
Then, an idea struck the researchers. If the process worked to make the liquid chocolate move better without the extra cocoa butter, the fat contained in the product could be cut down, as well. By using their method, the fat in the electric chocolate went down nearly 20 percent, still flowed smoothly, and did not muck up the pipes.
Tao specifically studies how “smart liquids” can be changed by applying an electric field. A smart fluid will thicken when zapped with electricity. Generally, these fluids are more industrial like machine oils, but it turns out, liquid chocolate is also a smart liquid.
At the microscopic level, chocolate is a mixture of round cocoa solids swimming in the fat and oil of cocoa butter. The circular particles stick together and get congested, not unlike a glass full of golf balls. To keep the mixture moving, extra cocoa butter is added.
Tao, however, speculated that electricity could be used to keep the flow moving. An electric sieve was introduced into the liquid chocolate, shocking the cocoa solids as they passed through.
The jolt actually flattened the particles and they began behaving like small bar magnets. They lined up into rows, making it easier for the liquid chocolate to move. The neat little rows can pack closer together than round particles and more room means less resistance.
Using traditional methods, chocolate makers can only get chocolate’s fat content down to about 36 percent. However, using an electric shock, the research team found the fat content to be around 28 percent without changing the recipe.
The scientists published their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The article contends the electric shock method “leads to healthier and tastier chocolate.” Yet, the report offers no substantiated data to back up the improved flavor claim.
Food scientist and director of the Sensory Evaluation Center at Penn State University John Hayes isn’t convinced.
“Part of what makes chocolate so unique is the melting properties of the cocoa butter,” Hayes said. “It just melts exactly at body temperature.”
Lowering the butter content makes a more “powdery, more brittle, more stringent” chocolate, he added. As of yet, no tests have been performed to evaluate the taste and texture. An electrified chocolate may be lower in fat, but may change the mouth-melting experience.
For now, we’ll have to wait and see how the electrified chocolate measures up. Tao said he is currently working with a “major chocolate company” and plans to test the technology in the real world. While the physicist did not name the company, Mars provided the money for the research.
Lower fat means fewer calories, so the electric chocolate may, in fact, be healthier to consume. It may even help boost a person’s endurance while exercising. According to a recent Inquisitr report, chocolate contains certain substances that play a crucial role in improving an athlete’s overall fitness performance.
A lower-fat chocolate will certainly open numerous marketing opportunities for manufacturers. If the electric chocolate does taste the same or better, likely other food companies will jump onboard with their own studies to develop new manufacturing methods and distribution channels.
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