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Delicious sources of vitamin D: cocoa butter and dark chocolate
In many regions of the world, numerous people are not adequately supplied with vitamin D. A vitamin D deficiency can result in brittle bones and an increased risk of respiratory diseases. Researchers have now discovered a new, previously unknown source of the important vitamin: cocoa.
Widespread vitamin D deficiency
Only a few months ago it was reported that around 60 percent of children and adolescents in Germany have more or less reduced levels of vitamin D. A study also showed that around half of those over 65 years of age are affected by a vitamin D deficiency. In general, the vitamin D supply in Germany is considered to be poor. The situation could possibly improve with a new, previously unknown source of vitamin D: cocoa.
Important sun rays
Vitamin D is of central importance for the human body. It comes in two variants: vitamin D2 and D3.
The latter is formed in human skin by the action of sun rays. In this way, people cover around 90 percent of their vitamin D requirements.
Ideally, the rest of the human being is ingested through food, e.g. fatty fish or chicken eggs.
Vitamin D2, which can also be used by the human body, is also found in mushrooms. In the meantime, there are even mushrooms enriched with vitamin D.
Nevertheless: “Many people are not optimally supplied with vitamin D. The problem increases again in the low-sun months in winter, ”explained nutritionist Prof. Dr. Gabriele Stangl from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) in a communication.
So far unknown vitamin D source
A research group from the MLU and the Max Rubner Institute now has the vitamin D content of cocoa and cocoa-containing products in a new study because they suspected a previously unknown source of the vitamin.
After fermentation, cocoa beans are dried and placed on mats and exposed to the sun for one to two weeks.
This sunlight converts the precursors of vitamin D, which presumably come from harmless mushrooms, to vitamin D2.
To test their idea, the researchers analyzed various cocoa products and powders using modern mass spectrometry.
The results of the study were recently published in the journal "Food Chemistry".
Dark chocolate with a relatively high vitamin D2 content
The scientists found that products containing cocoa are a source of vitamin D2. The content varies greatly from food to food.
While dark chocolate has a relatively high vitamin D2 content, the researchers found little of it in white chocolate.
“This is not surprising, since the cocoa content in white chocolate is significantly lower. This confirms our assumption that cocoa is the source of vitamin D2, ”said Stangl.
However, the nutritionist does not derive the recommendation to consume large quantities of chocolate from her findings:
“You would have to eat lots of chocolate to cover the need for vitamin D2. That would be extremely unhealthy due to the high sugar and fat content, ”says Stangl.
The result of the study is rather important for obtaining correct data on which nutrients the population consumes on average.
For this purpose, the population's food consumption is determined in national consumption studies. In combination with the Federal Food Code, an extensive nutrient database, the Max Rubner Institute uses this to calculate the daily nutrient intake of the population.
If there is no source of vitamin D in this database, the figures are incorrect in the end. The researchers therefore recommend that the food and nutrient databases be revised regularly.
Cocoa with health benefits
The working group at the MLU also uses the findings of the new study in a follow-up project:
"Cocoa is an exciting food raw material because it contains additional phytochemicals that are beneficial for the cardiovascular system, for example," explained nutritionist Stangl.
Scientific studies have already shown that cocoa is good for heart health.
And also that dark chocolate can reduce high blood pressure and help with stress and inflammation.
Stangl and her team are now investigating whether sugar-free, cocoa-containing foods, such as pasta, can be produced and whether they can contribute to an improved vitamin D2 level in humans. (ad)