Recent advances in chocolate research

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Chocolate has been appreciated as a delicacy for thousands of years, and it’s easy to see why. The luscious and luxurious treat can give you a little pick-me-up toward the end of a hard day, or provide a sweet ending to a fine meal. You might think we know everything about chocolate by now, but surprisingly, researchers are still reporting new findings about the confection. Below are some recent papers published in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that report insights into chocolate, such as what compounds make it taste a certain way, how it could help strengthen teeth and how to tell if a chocolate bar is authentic. Reporters can request free access to these papers by emailing

“Decoding the Fine Flavor Properties of Dark Chocolates”
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Oct. 18, 2022

A good, rich dark chocolate can be described as cocoa-like, acidic, fruity or even floral, but what compounds are responsible for these sensations? The researchers leading this study answered this question and showed, for the first time, that they could decode the flavor attributes at the molecular level. Using aroma extract dilution analysis, they identified and quantified several compounds associated with the fine flavor properties in a set of reference chocolates that are used to train sensory panelists.

“B-type Proanthocyanidins with Dentin Biomodification Activity from Cocoa (Theobroma cacao)”
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Sept. 22, 2022

Cocoa could help save your teeth! In past research, this team identified plant-derived proanthocyanidins (PACs) as promising treatments for dental issues because these compounds can strengthen dentin, the layer of the tooth under the enamel. The authors also previously found that PACs from cocoa beans, which are used to make chocolate, had positive effects on teeth. Here, they isolated and characterized the structures of six cocoa PACs, including a new tetramer, and found that the dentin-strengthening properties depended on the compounds’ structures and the way they were linked.  

In Vitro CRISPR-Cpf1 Assay for Differentiation of Fine and Bulk Cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.)”
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
July 5, 2022

When splurging on an expensive chocolate treat, you want to know that it’s made from high-quality ingredients. Here, researchers used a CRISPR-Cpf1 assay to distinguish pricey Arriba Nacional beans from those of a less-prized cultivar. The more well-known CRISPR technology — CRISPR-Cas9 — couldn’t tell the cultivars apart. So, these researchers showed that an alternative method, called CRISPR-Cpf1, could do the job, and they demonstrated it with various cocoa bean mixtures. The researchers say that the assay should be easy for many labs to implement for quality assurance testing and fraud detection.


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