New Scientist (N) The brain-derived chemical compounds responsible for the distinctive smell of chocolate are responsible for its distinctive smell, according to new research.
Researchers in China have found that these compounds called flavonoids play a key role in the process of the chocolate’s flavour.
They have discovered that flavonoid-derived compounds can trigger chemical reactions in the brain, creating the unique aroma.
This is the first time flavonol has been used in the laboratory for the detection of a smell, the researchers say.
The finding could help develop new sniffers for perfume, food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, said Prof Robert Seneff, a chemical engineer at the University of Manchester in the UK.
This study suggests that flavanols could be used as scent sensors for the future, he said.
The researchers tested samples of flavonols from different chocolate varieties, and compared them with compounds known to trigger chemical responses in the human brain.
They found that the flavonolan acids could activate the human nervous system in a way that mimics the smell of vanilla or other chocolate.
“There is a great need for new methods for detecting chocolate smells and their chemical reactions, and it’s exciting to see that we’re developing novel ones,” said Dr Ting-Shi Wu, a senior lecturer at the department of chemistry at the university.
Chocolate makers have been using flavanoids for years to make flavoured foods and drinks, and some flavonone-rich foods, such as cocoa, are now used to flavor processed foods such as pasta, rice, tea and chocolate.
But the chemical compounds used in these products were only discovered by researchers in the 1980s.
The new study was published in the journal Science.