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Scientists Remove Fat From Chocolate By Electrifying It

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Scientists claim they have discovered a way to zap the fat out of good old chocolate, quite literally.

The research team, led by Rongjia Tao of Temple University, removed up to 20% of fat in chocolate by putting liquid milk chocolate through a sieve that had been electrified. The researchers say the non-fat end product still tastes as good, too.

Before chocolate becomes candy bars and other sweets, chocolate begins as liquid in a factory, composed of solid cocoa particles, sugar and other mixed solids. The liquid chocolate is suspended in melted fat and oil, usually cocoa butter, generally up to 40% by volume. The cocoa butter keeps the liquid chocolate flowing, preventing it from hardening as it goes through the process.

According to a report from NPR, a consulting agency working for chocolate and candy giant Mars Inc. spoke to Tao in 2012, asking for his help in improving the viscosity of liquid milk chocolate, partially funding this research.

Tao and his colleagues developed a method of making the chocolate flow even better though factory pipes, without having to add any more fatty cocoa butter.

The team then had a light bulb moment, where they realized that if liquid chocolate could flow through pipes easier, then they could also reduce the amount of fat in it by 10 to 20% and still enable it to flow smoothly.

Tao, who studies smart fluids – liquids that transforms when an electric field is applied – turned to science to find the solution. Smart fluids have unique characteristics; for example, a smart fluid may thicken rapidly when an electric shock is given to it. Most smart fluids are motor oils, but interestingly enough, so is chocolate.

The researchers decided to try using electricity, and inserted an electrified sieve into the liquid chocolate. When the solid cocoa particles passed through the sieve, they were given a shock. This, in turn, made the cocoa solids flatten and they began lining themselves up into long chains, like magnets. The new structure allowed more space for the liquid chocolate to flow – all without having to add cocoa butter.

Manufacturers have tried cutting the fat content in their chocolate products, and have had success in reducing fat content to around 36%. Tao’s team, however, was able to reduce fat content down to 28%.

The resulting chocolate was not only healthier, but tasted better. Tao is now working with a “major chocolate company” to give his findings a more expansive, real-world test.

The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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