Rejoice, fatties: Giving chocolate electric shocks makes it healthier

Less fat needed after careful application of wiggly amps

Chocolate lovers, today's your lucky day. Physicists have found a way to make the sweet brown stuff healthier by applying an electric field to molten chocolate.

Previous attempts to lower the fat content of chocolate, in an effort to make it healthier, have failed, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Cocoa butter, a vital ingredient of most chocolate, boosts fat levels and is added to give chocolate a smooth velvety texture when it melts in the mouth, so when it’s taken away or substituted, the chocolate becomes gloopy.

The high concentration of cocoa solids left in chocolate with reduced levels of cocoa butter increases its viscosity and sometimes can even jam the flow of liquid heaven in chocolate factories.

Physicists from Temple University in Philadelphia have, however, found a way to solve that problem. By zapping the liquid chocolate with an electric field along its direction of flow, it polarises the cocoa molecules and causes them to clump into spheroids.

The new structure – which looks like a string of rugby balls – is a few micrometres long and breaks any previous rotational symmetry that the cocoa solids had. It reduces the chocolate’s viscosity along the direction of flow and increases its “maximally random jammed density” – a fancy scientific way of saying a higher level of low-fat chocolate can be packed in before the flow of sweet molten goodness gets jammed.

With globs of cocoa solids bobbing along the direction of flow more smoothly, less fat needs to be added. Scientists have reportedly managed to reduce the viscosity of a Mars bar by 43.5 per cent, allowing the fat content to be lowered by more than 10 per cent.

Reducing fat also means that chocolate has a higher cocoa concentration making it richer and tastier, the researchers said: “We are expecting a new class of healthier and tastier chocolate soon.” ®


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