Study finds that fat on the outside of chocolate gives it the best mouth feel

I hope I’m doing this study justice because I feel like I need more science education to understand it. Researchers at the University of Leeds broke down the steps in eating chocolate. They used a model of a mouth to find that the fat on the outside of chocolate breaks down, coats the tongue and makes eating chocolate so enjoyable. They hope that by maximizing the location of fat healthier chocolate can be developed without sacrificing the experience.

Summary: Researchers have decoded the sensory processing mechanisms that make the sensation of eating chocolate so irresistible to most people.

Source: University of Leeds

Scientists have decoded the physical process that takes place in the mouth when a piece of chocolate is eaten, as it changes from a solid into a smooth emulsion that many people find totally irresistible.

By analysing each of the steps, the interdisciplinary research team at the University of Leeds hope it will lead to the development of a new generation of luxury chocolates that will have the same feel and texture but will be healthier to consume.

During the moments it is in the mouth, the chocolate sensation arises from the way the chocolate is lubricated, either from ingredients in the chocolate itself or from saliva or a combination of the two.

Fat plays a key function almost immediately when a piece of chocolate is in contact with the tongue. After that, solid cocoa particles are released and they become important in terms of the tactile sensation, so fat deeper inside the chocolate plays a rather limited role and could be reduced without having an impact on the feel or sensation of chocolate.

Anwesha Sarkar, Professor of Colloids and Surfaces in the School of Food Science and Nutrition at Leeds, said: “Lubrication science gives mechanistic insights into how food actually feels in the mouth. You can use that knowledge to design food with better taste, texture or health benefits.

“If a chocolate has 5% fat or 50% fat it will still form droplets in the mouth and that gives you the chocolate sensation. However, it is the location of the fat in the make-up of the chocolate which matters in each stage of lubrication, and that has been rarely researched.

“We are showing that the fat layer needs to be on the outer layer of the chocolate, this matters the most, followed by effective coating of the cocoa particles by fat, these help to make chocolate feel so good.”

The study – published in the scientific journal ACS Applied Materials and Interface – did not investigate the question of how chocolate tastes. Instead, the investigation focused on its feel and texture.

Tests were conducted using a luxury brand of dark chocolate on an artificial 3D tongue-like surface that was designed at the University of Leeds. The researchers used analytical techniques from a field of engineering called tribology to conduct the study, which included in situ imaging.

Tribology is about how surfaces and fluids interact, the levels of friction between them and the role of lubrication: in this case, saliva or liquids from the chocolate. Those mechanisms are all happening in the mouth when chocolate is eaten.

When chocolate is in contact with the tongue, it releases a fatty film that coats the tongue and other surfaces in the mouth. It is this fatty film that makes the chocolate feel smooth throughout the entire time it is in the mouth.

[From Neuroscience News]

I was gifted luxury handmade chocolate for Christmas and it was the most amazing chocolate I’ve ever had in my life. It felt like sex in my mouth and the taste was so complex and rich. They were like jewel toned little presents that melted in my mouth with notes of earl grey, passion fruit and orange. After eating those chocolates Hershey’s tastes like cardboard, although I’ll still eat it I’m not that picky.

Also I lived in Germany for a few years and even the store brand chocolate tastes better than American chocolate for some reason. Maybe they have better ingredients along with a better mouth feel. I did some half assed research and German brand Ritter milk chocolate has 18% fat while Hershey’s has 20% so it’s not just fat content.

I used to watch a lot of “how it’s made” videos on YouTube and I saw one from Cadbury where scientists were working on a “healthier” chocolate bar with less sugar. It was due to UK government regulations on sugar content. It’s been out for a few years now and has just 15% fat and less than 8 grams of sugar. They replaced some of the sugar with fiber. That sounds kind of unappetizing, but this type of science can hopefully make healthier chocolate taste better and that’s a good thing.

Photos credit: Eniko Kis, Budgeron Bach and Mikhail Nilov on Pexels

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13 Responses to “Study finds that fat on the outside of chocolate gives it the best mouth feel”

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  1. Hootenannie says:

    I don’t know about y’all, but I would rather just eat the current chocolate in moderation vs slightly more of a “healthier” kind. If I want to splurge, I’ll do it carefully. But I’d always prefer to enjoy a bit of the real deal vs a greater amount of a diet version.

    • LadyMTL says:

      I’m the same, I adore chocolate and I’d rather have a little bit of really good quality stuff than fistfuls of cheap junk. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and a place for a candy bar type of thing, but overall yeah give me some good handmade small batch choccy please!

    • BeanieBean says:

      Same here. A piece of good chocolate, once in a while, and I’m both happy & healthy.

    • Kate says:

      Right? Like why are we over-sciencing this?

  2. Concern Fae says:

    They always end up finding that the modified “healthier” version is worse for you. Although you can generally take things one notch. High fat can be made low fat, low fat no fat, but the carbs added to make no fat cookies and such are more dangerous than the fat.

    This sounds good, because it’s taking a good for you dark chocolate and enrobing it in a higher fat chocolate to get the mouth feel of milk chocolate and the better taste of dark.

    • Sarah says:

      Agree. Every time we try to use food science to make things “healthier” (aka lower calorie), it backfires. Just eat the real thing and enjoy it. Food is not healthy or unhealthy. It is just food. Sometimes, it gives you nutrients and sometimes it gives you pleasure. Working out the balance of those things that works for your body is the trick. /end dietitian rant.

  3. Ann says:

    I didn’t know Ritter was German. It’s one of my favorite chocolates ever. I was so bummed when they stopped selling the Ritter Sport bars at Trader Joe’s. I feel like I used to see it everywhere and now I can’t find it.

    The other “healthy” chocolate that replaces sugar with fiber sound a lot like the Atkins candy bars, and those are pretty tasty. I’m down for healthier chocolate but like someone above said it can come at a price. I like certain sugar free Russell Stover chocolates but not too many because they use the fake sugar that can give you diarrhea. There always seems to be a trade off with healthy candy.

  4. Emmi says:

    I was in the US last year and a friend there was waxing poetic about a certain kind of chocolate that was supposed to be so good I had to try it. I did. It was fine. But Lindt has better chocolate than that and it’s a staple in most supermarkets here in Germany (it’s Swiss of course, what else). And that’s just the supermarket kind. You guys do a LOT of stuff extremely well but not chocolate. LOL

    I’m not a fan of healthier versions of “unhealthy” sweets. It never tastes the same and I don’t need to eat a whole 100g. I mean I could … but that’s not advisable anyway. Those healthy protein bars? Ugh. In the beginning, vegan chocolate was horrible and while they have improved it to the point where I love it almost as much, it’s still not quite the same. I’ll pick it for ethical reasons but … man I miss milk chocolate. You substitute something, most people can tell.

  5. Angie H says:

    Fiber is likely inulin, a fiber used to sweeten many foods like ice cream. I bought some to try my hand with it but haven’t had the courage.

    • art maven says:

      I drop some into my Greek yogurt. It’s mildly sweetening, but it promote good gut bacteria because it’s prebiotic and I think I’ve notice less bloating and tummy blahs since then .

  6. Kaye says:

    I feel like I’m one of the only people in the world not to like chocolate.

  7. detritus says:

    The US allows for different sugars and different fats to be used in chocolate, whereas Germany has controlled more of the production with tighter policy.

    buying less but better chocolate is more ethical typically, as well. Lindt removed child labor years before Mars was forced to address their issues for example.