* 20 g of chocolate a day may make skin more radiant
* Antioxidants in chocolate may slow ageing process
* Barry Callebaut developed antioxidant-rich chocolate
By Katie Reid and Silke Koltrowitz
ZURICH, May 20 (Reuters Life!) - The world's largest
chocolate maker says it may have come up with a chocolate bar
that could fight wrinkles and slow the ageing process, making it
the latest food group to tap the appetite for healthier living.
Eating 20 g (0.755 oz) of specially developed chocolate
packed with antioxidants, or flavanols, each day may help
prevent wrinkles and make skin more radiant by boosting
elasticity and improving hydration, studies carried out by Barry
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the nutritional
value of what they eat, and Barry Callebaut's (BARN.S) claims
come as food giants such as Nestle NESN.VX and Danone
(DANO.PA) also push into the healthy eating arena.
Dark chocolate has already been linked with certain health
benefits, such as helping to lower blood pressure and reducing
the risk of strokes thanks to its high content of antioxidants.
The Swiss group has developed a way of preserving the
flavanols found in cocoa beans during the chocolate-making
process, allowing them to produce a bar that is richer in
flavanols, Barry Callebaut Chief Innovation Officer Hans Vriens
said in an interview.
"Chocolate and health do not seem to fit together but it is
a very interesting proposition: if I can eat something I like
and it is good for me, that is great," Vriens said. "Chocolate
is probably at the bottom of the list when you think about
making food healthier."
Smoking, pollution, caffeine and a lack of sleep contribute
to the creation of free radicals that can damage healthy cells
in the body and accelerate the ageing process.
"There is a huge body of evidence that shows flavanols slow
down damage caused by free radicals," said Kepler Capital
Markets analyst Jon Cox.
"Food manufacturing companies are leveraging health and
wellness into various products and there is definitely a market
for chocolate in health and wellness. We have already seen how
this has worked in dairy products, with products like Danone's
Actimel and Unilever's (ULVR.L) Benecol," Cox said.
The functional chocolate market, which includes organic and
diet chocolate, is seeing double-digit growth, easily outpacing
the 1-2 percent growth currently seen in the rest of the
chocolate market, Cox said.
But some experts are doubtful about the positive effects
flavanols have on skin.
"There is quite a lot of evidence that cocoa flavanols have
a positive effect on the blood flow. They could reduce blood
pressure which could have a positive effect on cardiovascular
diseases," said Richard Hurrell, Professor of Human Nutrition at
the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.
"The possible effects on skin and cognitive performance are
less well established. There is evidence, but it is much less
consistent. It may be that the effect on the blood flow is also
what improves memory or skin health in some of the studies,"
(Editing by Paul Casciato)