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Complex flavor chemistry makes chocolate flavor stronger despite lower fat.

A University of Missouri taste test found no significant difference in the flavor of low-fat versus regular chocolate ice cream-a bonus that may be unique to chocolate ice creams due to the complex mix of chemicals that make up that distinctive flavor. Investigators next want to test fruit-flavored ice cream to see what impact varying fat levels have on its taste and texture.

Scientists at the university (Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, 122 Eckles Hall, Columbia, MO 65211) targeted chocolate because the popular flavor had not previously been studied. After vanilla, chocolate is the second favorite ice cream flavor in the U.S. Since the reduction of fat in vanilla ice creams resulted in a less smooth and harsher taste, and people disliked it more, researchers wondered if that also would be true for chocolate ice cream.

A single chemical compound carries the flavor of vanilla. By contrast, the flavor of chocolate is found in a mixture of many chemicals. It's this complexity that helps make chocolate less susceptible to flavor degradation. In fact, chocolate may be used to cover up off-flavors. It's a masking flavor.

The chocolate ice cream study was conducted with the help of untrained and trained testers. In the study, researchers found that people like the 0.5% non-fat ice cream just as much as they like the full-fat (9% milk fat) chocolate ice cream. Trained panelists found that the intensity of the flavor varied with the fat content, which is akin to the difference between milk chocolate and dark or semi-bitter chocolate. But a collective thumbs-up by a much larger group of untrained survey participants showed they didn't think that difference mattered much.

The same is not necessarily true for strawberry ice cream, however, according to a study done at the University of Helsinki, Finland. Researchers there found the taste of fat-free strawberry ice cream differed significantly in taste from the regular version. For health-conscious chocolate ice cream lovers, the Missouri study is good news. When it comes to chocolate ice cream, the decision to buy a good-tasting ice cream is independent of the fat content.

Further information. Ingolf Gruen; phone: 573-882-6746; fax: 573-882-0596.
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Comment:Complex flavor chemistry makes chocolate flavor stronger despite lower fat.
Publication:Emerging Food R&D Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 1999
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