Salvation could be in store for guilt-ridden chocolate lovers as scientists finally crack the method of producing low-fat chocolate.
Researchers in America successfully reduced the fat content of the chocolate used in Mars bars by more than 10 percent, after firing electricity through the liquid chocolate during the production process.
Up until now, attempts to produce low-fat chocolate have largely stalled because, counter intuitively, reducing the fat content increases viscosity of the liquid and clogs up production pipelines.
Chocolate is composed of coca, sugar, milk solids and other particles suspended in liquid fat such as cocoa butter.
It is one of the most popular food types and flavours in the world, but at around 40 percent fat by volume, or up to 60 percent for chocolate used to coat ice creams, is also closely associated with causing obesity.
Scientists at the University of Philadelphia applied a technique called electrorheology, which they say successfully altered the micro-structure of chocolate to create a version both healthier and tastier than the full-fat staple.
Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, the researchers describe how they applied an electric field along the direction of flow of liquid chocolate, causing solid cocoa particles to clump together in streamlined chains.
Because particle shape influences intrinsic viscosity, the scientists predicted that the clumping would break the particles’ rotational symmetry and reduce both the viscosity and the minimum amount of melted fat required to maintain proper texture and flow within the pipeline.
They managed to reduce the viscosity of a sample of Mars chocolate by 43.5 percent, enabling a reduction in fat content of more than 10 percent.
They successfully achieved similar results with chocolates from other manufacturers, suggesting the method could be widely applicable.
“Especially because children are the leading chocolate consumer, reducing the fat level in chocolate products to make them healthier is important and urgent,” wrote the researchers.
“Although this issue was called into attention decades ago, unfortunately no actual solution was found.
“The treated chocolate has wonderful taste,” they added.
“Some people even claim that ER[electrorheology]-treated chocolate has a slightly stronger cocoa solid flavour, better than the original chocolate.
“We are thus expecting a new class of healthier and tastier chocolate products soon.
“Moreover, the basic physics presented in this article is general, applicable to many other suspensions [of fat] when they need to reduce viscosity.”