A lecturer from Edge Hill University has discovered that chocolate can be manufactured in a way which may help with weight management, and it won’t taste any different.

Dr Catherine Tsang, Senior Lecturer in Human Nutrition and Health in the Faculty of Health and Social Care, collaborated with top Belgian chocolate company, Barry Callebaut, who manufacture chocolate using the Acticoa method, to preserve important compounds within the cocoa.

Usually when chocolate is produced, some of the compounds within the cocoa are lost, however the Acticoa method ensures that over 80 per cent of the antioxidant properties – the polyphenols – are retained, meaning a larger amount of these healthy compounds are consumed.

So what are the health benefits of these compounds? And are there any benefits of adding fibre to chocolate? Catherine has conducted research to find out whether consuming polyphenol-rich dark chocolate and adding fibre can help us feel fuller for longer.

Dark chocolate has a greater content of cocoa and lower content of sugar compared to milk chocolate, so chocolatiers at Barry Callebaut developed three types of dark chocolate buttons for the project, which all tasted and looked exactly the same. One type contained polyphenol-rich dark chocolate, one contained the same chocolate with added fibre, and the final chocolate was a placebo, low in polyphenols and matched for energy and other nutrients.

Twelve healthy volunteers consumed 20g of each chocolate on three separate occasions.

As well as analysing their normal food intake before and after consuming each type of chocolate, urine samples were also collected to measure levels of polyphenols.

They were then invited to an open buffet where they could consume as much as they liked of a test meal so Catherine could measure their satiety.

The volunteers were also asked to complete a visual analogue scale which recorded their feeling of hunger and desire to eat before and then after consuming the chocolate, which they filled in six times at different intervals within two hours of consumption of chocolate.

After 15 minutes of consuming the polyphenol-rich chocolate with added fibre, desire to eat was significantly less. The volunteers felt like they had eaten enough, they were kept full for an average of two hours and consumed less calories the following day. Similar findings were also found after consuming polyphenol-rich chocolate without added fibre but were more effective with added fibre. No effect was found after the placebo chocolate.

Fibre has many health benefits and the recommended daily intake in the UK is 30g a day, with the average person only consuming between 17 – 20g. Manufacturing chocolate with added fibre could help people increase their intake, keeping them fuller for longer.

This means that dark chocolate containing preserved polyphenols and added fibre could be used as a healthy snack, as part of a healthy balanced diet.

Catherine has been working with academics at the University of Edinburgh, Queen Margaret University and Liverpool Hope University, and they plan to carry out further studies to monitor satiety over a longer period of time, and to understand their mechanism.