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Inulin may offer low-sugar, tasty milk chocolate

By Stephen Daniells , 29-Oct-2009

Combining inulin with the bulking agent polydextrose may reduce the sugar and fat content of milk chocolate, without affecting consumer acceptance, suggests a new study.

Milk chocolate with up to 25 per cent fewer calories was produced by replacing sugar with inulin and polydextrose, according to findings published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Texture Studies.

“Our findings on simultaneous fat and sugar reductions also indicated the possibility of fat cut up to 5% in comparison to previous fat content,” wrote Hannaneh Farzanmehr and Soleiman Abbasi from Tarbiat Modares University in Tehran.

The issue of health is no longer a marginal topic for the food industry but wholly mainstream, and it finds confectioners, biscuit and cake makers seeking to juxtapose today's consumer desire for indulgence with their desire for foods with a healthy profile.

According to a recent study from the US, only 5 per cent of American children between 6 and 11 were overweight before 1980, but 25 years later this number had risen to 19 per cent. Similar increases have been reported in Europe, with the International Association for the Study of Obesity estimating in 2006 that the number of obese school age children in Europe increased by almost 50 per cents since the late 1990s.

While low sugar chocolates are currently available for diabetics, Farzanmehr and Abbasi report for the first time the “influences of inulin as a prebiotic as well as polydextrose and maltodextrin as bulking agents on physicochemical, energy content, texture and sensory properties of milk chocolate”.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report in this field with very interesting results and practical applicability,” they added.

Study details

The researchers used various ratios of inulin (Frutafit, Sensus), polydextrose (Litesse, Danisco) and maltodextrin (SCT, Bangkok), in combination with sucralose (Tate & Lyle) to replace sugar in milk chocolate formulations.

They found that, in general, higher rations of polydextrose and maltodextrin contained more moisture and were considered softer than ‘normal’ milk chocolate.

However, maltodextrin produced undesirable sensorial effects, while the overall acceptability improved with addition of inulin and polydextrose.

“Our findings showed that the use of aforementioned ingredients instead of sugar could lead to production of low-calorie milk chocolate without having the undesirable textural and physiological effects on the product and consumers,” they added.

Use water to replace fat

FoodNavigator recently reported on an innovation from the University of Birmingham, England for the production of stable cocoa butter water-in-oil emulsions containing up to 60 per cent water by mass.

“Results [of our study] suggest low-fat chocolate formulations using this route may be feasible,” wrote the researchers, led by Dr Phil Cox in the Journal of Food Engineering (November 2009, Vol. 95, pp.172-178).

In an email to FoodNavigator, Dr Cox stated: “We have just patented an extension to the preliminary work and are in discussion with companies.”

Source: Journal of Texture Studies
Volume 40 Issue 5, Pages 536 – 553
“Effects of inulin and bulking agents on some physiochemical, textural and sensory properties of milk chocolate”
Authors: H. Farzanmehr, S. Abbasi

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