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Stevia tops preferences for low-cal chocolate

By Stephen Daniells , 01-Jun-2010
Last updated on 01-Jun-2010 at 12:36 GMT

Beverages formulated with stevia are preferred by consumers over similar products sweetened with sugar or other common high intensity sweeteners, says new research from Croatia.

Cocoa beverages formulated with stevia produced “the most balanced attributes” when tested by a panel of 15 tasters, according to findings published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

“On the basis of these results, it can be seen that panellists preferred the drinks made with stevia sweetener, because it tasted well, was moderately sweet, and provided a well-balanced flavour and taste, which indicates a great potential of using this sweetener,” wrote the researchers, led by Drazenka Komes from the Faculty of Food Technology and Biotechnology at the University of Zagreb.

On the other hand, the scientists also report that the highest scores for sweetness were observed for beverages formulated with a blend of aspartame and acesulfame K, indicating the potential of different formulations, according to local preferences.

There has been a great deal of excitement about stevia and its high purity component Reb A since the US Food and Drug Administration said it considers the zero-calorie, natural sweetener to be GRAS (generally recognized as safe) in December 2008. This was followed by a positive opinion from EFSA on the safety of stevia in April of this year. Final EU approval is expected next year.

Differentiation must be made between rebaudiside A and steviol glycosides in general. Rebaudioside A, also known as Reb A and rebiana, is a high-intensity sweetener derived from the stevia leaf. It is said to be approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar.

Boosting flavour, maintaining health

Cocoa beverages were formulated using two cocoa powders with various fat contents and a variety of sweeteners, including sucrose, glucose, maltodextrin, erythritol (all from Cargill), fructose (Merck), isomaltulose (Beneo-Palatinit), inulin and oligofructose (Beneo-Orafti), a 50-50 blend of aspartame/acesulfam K (Brenntag), and stevia (Kal, USA).

Results showed that none of the sugars and sweeteners affected the polyphenolic content of the cocoa beverage. This is an important measure given the increasing positioning of cocoa products in the health and wellness range.

However, higher fat content of between 16 and 18 per cent in the cocoa powder mixtures adversely affected the total polyphenol, total flavonoid, flavan-3-ol, and proanthocyanidin contents, compared with cocoa containing between 10 and 12 per cent fat, said the researchers.

Results of the sensory evaluation, using the 9-point hedonic scale, showed that there was a preference for the cocoa drinks made with sweeteners and there was a significant difference in the sensory attributes between the experimental mixtures and the control.

“The displayed results indicate the significant potential of using alternative sweeteners for the preparation of cocoa drink mixtures, which may provide good physical and sensory properties and also enhance the already existing beneficial effects of cocoa,” concluded the researchers.

Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1021/jf1005484
“Physical Properties and Bioactive Constituents of Powdered Mixtures and Drinks Prepared with Cocoa and Various Sweeteners”
Authors: A. Belak-Cvitanovi, M. Benkovi, D. Komes, I. Bauman, D. Hori, F. Dujmi, M. Matijaec

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