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Snack Size Science: Choc cravings and low-fat treats

By Stephen Daniells , 16-Sep-2009

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FoodNavigator’s Snack Size Science brings you the week's top science every two weeks. This week we look at the science behind chocolate cravings, and how to formulate a tasty, low-fat chocolate treat.

Below is a full transcript of this podcast:

This is FoodNavigator’s Snack Size Science. I’m Stephen Daniells - bringing you the week’s top science in digestible amounts.

This week we unwrap all things chocolaty, including low-fat chocolate which tastes so good you can’t believe it’s not naughty, but first we try to rationalise chocolate cravings.

Food cravings are something that many of us have experienced at some time or other. But understanding the cravings, particularly in women around the time of the menopause and particularly for chocolate, has only recently been subjected to scientific study.

In an attempt to get to the root of a woman’s desire for chocolate, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania surveyed 280 women from three distinct groups: Before, during, and after the menopause.

According to findings published in the journal Appetite, the difference in cravings between menopausal and post-menopausal women was too small to be accounted for by hormonal changes.

The researchers suggests that for some women, chocolate is a way to deal with the stress and discomfort of menstruation and the menopause. Since chocolate is seen as a ‘forbidden food’ by many women, their discomfort may legitimize their desires, said the researchers.

Offering women, and other consumers, a guilt-free chocolate seems like a ideal situation. Findings from the University of Birmingham in the UK suggest you may be able to give into those cravings with a clear conscience, assuming the chocolate is made to their recipe.

According to findings in the Journal of Food Engineering, low-fat chocolate formulations containing up to 60 per cent water may be just around the corner. Their cocoa butter water-in-oil emulsions were found to have small droplet sizes. Not only that, but out of the five possible forms of cocoa butter, the one present in these emulsions was the form that consumers find the most attractive, as it melts in the mouth at a pleasing 33 Celsius.

If further development backs up the early potential of these formulations, we may all be able to have our chocolate cake and eat it with a clear conscience.

For FoodNavigator’s Snack Size Science, I’m Stephen Daniells

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