Flavanols and methylxanthines in commercially available dark chocolate: a study of the correlation with nonfat cocoa solids

J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Aug 10;59(15):8435-41. doi: 10.1021/jf201398t. Epub 2011 Jul 11.


Intake of flavanols, a subgroup of dietary polyphenols present in many fruits and vegetables, may be associated with health benefits, particularly with reducing the risk of coronary diseases. Cocoa and chocolate products are rich in flavanol monomers, oligomers, and polymers (procyanidins). This study used normal phase HPLC to detect, identify, and quantify epicatechin, catechin, total monomers, procyanidin oligomers and polymers in 14 commercially available chocolate bars. In addition, methylxanthines (theobromine and caffeine) were also quantified. Nonfat cocoa solids (NFCS) were determined both gravimetrically and by calculation from theobromine contents. The flavanol levels of 12 commonly consumed brands of dark chocolate have been quantified and correlated with % theobromine and % NFCS. Epicatechin comprised the largest fraction of total chocolate flavonoids, with the remainder being catechin and procyanidins. Calculated NFCS did not reflect epicatechin (R(2) = 0.41) or total flavanol contents (R(2) = 0.49). Epicatechin (R(2) = 0.96) was a reliable marker of total flavanols, catechin (R(2) = 0.67) to a lesser extent. All dark chocolate tested contained higher levels of total flavanols (93.5-651.1 mg of epicatechin equiv/100 g of product) than a milk or a white "chocolate" (40.6 and 0.0 mg of epicatechin equiv/100 g, respectively). The amount and integrity of procyanidins often suffer in the manufacturing of chocolate, chiefly due to oxidation and alkalinization. In this study, the labeled cocoa content of the chocolate did not always reflect analyzed levels of flavonoids. Increasingly, high % NFCS is being used commercially to reflect chocolate quality. If the flavanol content of chocolate is accepted to be a key determinant of health benefits, then continued monitoring of flavanol levels in commercially available chocolate products may be essential for consumer assurance.

MeSH terms

  • Cacao / chemistry*
  • Flavonoids / analysis*
  • Plant Extracts / analysis*
  • Polyphenols / analysis*
  • Xanthines / analysis*


  • Flavonoids
  • Plant Extracts
  • Polyphenols
  • Xanthines
  • methylxanthine