Evaluation of cocoa (Theobroma cacao) bean processing strategies to enhance alpha-glucosidase inhibitory activity of dietary cocoa
Racine, Kathryn Claire
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Cocoa beans (Theobroma cacao) are a highly concentrated source of dietary flavanols- bioactive compounds associated with the health protective properties of cocoa. Cocoa beans undergo processing steps, such as fermentation, roasting, winnowing, grinding, pressing, etc., to produce a final product with specific desirable sensory attributes. It is well established that these processing steps, specifically fermentation and roasting, result in dramatic degradation of cocoa's native flavanols, but it is possible that these processing steps may generate compounds with novel activities, potentially preserving or enhancing bioactivity. Raw unfermented cocoa beans were processed by way of a partial factorial approach to produce cocoa powders from the same batch of raw beans using various combinations of fermentation [unfermented, cool fermented (maximum 46°C), hot fermented (maximum 60°C))] and roasting [unroasted, cool roasted (120°C), hot roasted (170°C)]. To simulate cocoa fermentation in a highly controlled environment, a pilot-scale fermentation model system was employed to eliminate many external unknowns and ensure that the differences between our cocoa powders were due to our various treatments, rather than unknown factors occurring during fermentation and roasting. Low and high molecular weight fractions (8-10 kDa cutoff) were produced from cocoa powder extracts (CPE) of each treatment to quantify Maillard reaction products (MRP). A HILIC-UPLC MS/MS method was developed to more efficiently and sensitively quantify cocoa flavanols with high degrees of polymerization (DP) produced during processing. Overall, cocoa processing significantly (p<0.05) decreased the total phenolic and total flavanol concentrations of CPEs. Hot roasting had the greatest impact on native flavanol degradation yet produced CPEs with the highest mean degree of polymerization (mDP). All CPEs dose-dependently inhibited α-glucosidase enzyme activity, with cool fermented/cool roasted cocoa powder exhibiting the best inhibition (IC50 of 62.2 µg/mL). Increasing flavanol mDP was correlated with decreasing IC50 values, suggesting that the complex flavanols produced during processing enhance cocoa's bioactivity (or their production is associated with other products that enhance bioactivity). Alternatively, high molecular weight CPE fractions were correlated with increasing IC50 values, suggesting that MRPs interfere with enzyme inhibition or are associated with other products (polyphenols, macronutrients, etc.) that interfere with enzyme inhibition. Overall, the data presented within this work indicate that the components of processed cocoa powders are promising inhibitors of α-glucosidase, despite a significant reduction in native flavanol composition induced by processing, and moreover that fermentation and roasting conditions can positively influence the bioactivity of cocoa despite losses of native flavanols.
General Audience Abstract
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity-related chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2D) are the leading cause of preventable and/or premature death, with 51% of the American population predicted to be obese by 2030. Cocoa (Theobroma cacao) is a highly concentrated source of polyphenols, and these compounds have been shown to interact with and inhibit digestive enzymes responsible for carbohydrate breakdown. By inhibiting the activity of these digestive enzymes, it is possible to slow down carbohydrate absorption after a meal and ultimately reduce large spikes in blood glucose levels, being a promising strategy in the prevention and maintenance of T2D. Cocoa beans undergo processing steps to produce a final product, such as cocoa powder, and it is known that these processing steps reduce the levels of beneficial polyphenols. Yet, how this processing-induced degradation effects the health protective activities of cocoa is still widely unknown and is the focus of this work. Through highly controlled cocoa bean processing, cocoa powders of different processing conditions were produced and used to assess how various processing parameters impacted digestive enzyme activity. Overall, processing steps did reduce levels of native polyphenols. However, these losses did not demonstrate a reduction in enzyme inhibition and certain processing conditions actually enhanced digestive enzyme inhibition. This research shows promise for the potential use of processed cocoa powder as an effective strategy in the prevention and maintenance of T2D and further work must be done to understand the mechanisms behind this relationship.
- Masters Theses