Researchers at Tulane University in America have discovered that cocoa powder contains an extract which is more effective than fluoride in fighting cavities and protecting dental health. The compound is a white, crystalline powder commonly found in chocolate. Its chemical composition is similar to that of caffeine and, in tests carried out at the University, it was found to harden tooth enamel. The team, led by doctoral student Arman Sadeghpour, compared the cocoa-based substance with fluoride in tests carried out on the enamel of human teeth. The results were used to create a toothpaste which incorporates the cocoa. Sadeghpour said the product could hit the shelves within the next five years. Cocoa has been used as a functional ingredient in many products following extensive studies into its health-boosting benefits. Polyphenols and flavanols - powerful antioxidants contained in the beans - have been linked to reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and lowering blood pressure. Researchers from Harvard Medical School have even suggested that the cocoa flavanol epicatechin should be classed as a vitamin. Cocoa has also become a more prominent ingredient outside of the food sector. It has risen in popularity as a component in many cosmetic applications and, thanks to this week's research, it could now be picked up by toothpaste manufacturers alerted to its market-ability.