Research published in the LWT - Food Science and Technology journal by Botelho et al. found that dark chocolate enriched with phytosterols maintained its functionality during storage and was capable of a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) health claim on reduced cholesterol.
Functional food with health claim
“The dark chocolate bars developed in this study kept their potential functionality after five months of storage at room temperature, representing an option as a functional food,” said the researchers.
“…The daily intake of one bar (30 g) provided about 2.2 g of phytosterol esters, that is higher than the amount required by the FDA (1.3 g). In addition, the chocolate bar developed in this study did not contain sugar and was formulated with 50 g/ 100 g of cocoa, becoming an interesting option for individuals with dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome.”
What are phytosterols?
Phytosterols are natural compounds found in seeds, cereals and vegetable oils and have a similar structure to cholesterol.
They can displace cholesterol in the intestine, thereby reducing cholesterol absorption.
In the US, the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) allows a health claim for functional foods with at least 0.65 g of vegetable oil sterol esters, eaten twice a day with meals for a daily total intake of at least 1.3 g.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has also approved a health claim to say phytosterols - or plant sterols – reduce cholesterol levels. But the claim only applies to yellow fat spreads, dairy products, mayonnaise and salad dressings containing phytosterols*.