PGPR - Leave my Chocolate Alone
One day a friend of mine offered me a piece of chocolate. Since it is a sin to deny free chocolate I took a piece. As I opened the wrapper I notice it was sugar-free. Although I don't understand the point in buying sugar-free chocolate I ate it anyway. I never buy sugar-free products because I hate the overly chemical taste of artificial sweeteners. Much to my surprise this didn't have the chemically weird taste I was expecting. Since it was a small piece of candy from a larger bag there weren't any ingredients listed on the package.
I'm an avid label reader when it comes to food ingredients and I had to know what was in this chocolate. My friend Google and I began an online search to find what was hidden in this chocolate. Turns out it was sweetened with maltitol, a sugar alcohol. Reading up on maltitol I learned that it really isn't much different than plain ol' sugar. Sugar has 4 calories per gram and maltitol has 3. Plus, if you eat too much maltitol it can cause intestinal discomfort such as gas, cramping, and diarrhea.
The maltitol wasn't much of an issue for me since I was only eating one piece of candy but I wanted to know what in the heck PGPR was. It stands for polyglycerol polyricinoleate
a yellowish, viscous liquid comprised of polyglycerol esters of polycondensed fatty acids from castor oil. It may also be polyglycerol esters of dimerized fatty acids of soya bean oil.1
Now doesn't that sound delicious? So, what was it doing in my chocolate? In 2006 chocolate manufacturers began using it to enhance the texture of chocolate coatings to make them smoother. What really disturbed me is that chocolate manufacturers are removing cocoa butter from the chocolate and replacing it with PGPR. It turns out that cocoa butter can be sold for a higher price to the cosmetics industry.
Typically people associate the word butter with an unhealthy diet. There are several health benefits when a person eats chocolate and cocoa butter is no exception. It contains oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat, which has been shown to raise the good HDL cholesterol levels and lower the bad LDL cholesterol. Oleic acid is the reason people are urged to eat olive oil. Monounsaturated fats help the blood vessels of the body stay smooth.
One cup of cocoa butter contains 3.9mg of Vitamin E and 53.9mg of Vitamin K.2Vitamin E aids the circulatory system by dilating the blood vessels. If the vessels have a greater diameter there is less pressure throughout the system. Vitamin E also helps prevent platelets from sticking to the walls of the arteries.3 When these platelets break free they travel through the circulatory system often causing a heart attack, stroke, or pulmonary embolism. Vitamin K is essential in the body's clotting process. Whenever you cut yourself there is a chemical reaction that occurs in the body that eventually keeps the cut from bleeding. Vitamin K may also decrease the risk of bone fractures by preventing bone loss.
Cocoa butter also contains 438mg of phytosterols per cup.2 Studies have shown that 2 grams of phytosterols per day can lower LDL cholesterol by 10%.4 The cholesterol lowering effects of phytosterols can be seen within 2 weeks.
Laboratory test have been conducted to test the safety of PGPR. It was found to be 98% digested by rats and it was not carcinogenic in a 2 year rat or 8 week mouse study.5 The Center for Science in the Public Interest has compiled a list of food additives and given each of them one of three ratings. A red 'X' indicates the additive should be avoided, yellow scissors mean cut back, and a green check mark indicates that it appears to be safe. According to their extensive list PGPR is considered safe.
I searched the internet for the health benefits of PGPR and couldn't find any. Food is meant to nourish the body and not fool the mouth.
Dear Chocolate Industry,
Please leave my chocolate alone and do not switch the cocoa butter with PGPR. I am an avid label reader and I'm on to your game. I'm also sharing your dirty trick with my fellow chocolate lovers.