'Youthful' chocolate developed in Cambridge

Chocolate that makes you look younger might sound like a miracle product, but such a thing has lately been developed here in Cambridge. Esthechoc is the world’s first ‘beauty chocolate’ and was created by Dr Ivan M Petyaev at Lycotec, based at Granta Park. It is based on natural 70% cocoa dark chocolate and features a combination of two powerful antioxidants associated with anti-ageing properties: cocoa flavonols and marine carotenoid astaxanthin.

“It won’t reverse the process and make you younger but I hope it will slow down the ageing of tissues and inhibit the processes which are responsible for ageing.” says Petyaev. “We all age, but the aim of this product is to help us take some control of this.”

After consuming the product daily for three to four weeks, volunteers aged 50 to 60 were found to have an increased blood supply to the skin, less inflammation in the skin and a boost in antioxidant levels, necessary for maintaining younger-looking skin.

“People have said that skin looks smoother and more radiant,” says Petyaev.

This evidence would appear to be supported by the European Food Safety Authority, which agreed that cocoa flavonols help contribute to a healthy blood flow.

Esthechoc has been under development for three years and was launched at the Global Food Innovation Summit in London in March. But, more to the point, what does it taste like? Edition was lucky enough to get hold of a preview sample and can report that Esthechoc tastes rich, velvety and full of flavour: just like any other good-quality dark chocolate. Which is exactly the point, says Petyaev.

Unlike unappetising health foods we try once and never eat again, this beauty regime is designed to fit into people’s daily lifestyles. It’s a chocolate fix with benefits.

“With a 100g dark chocolate bar, which contains those good properties found in cocoa, the price you pay is calories,” Petyaev explains. “So we have made a more compact version which is easier to introduce to our everyday diet and lifestyle.”

Cocoa beans

One 7.5g piece of Esthechoc contains just 38 calories and minimal fat and sugar. It’s suitable for vegetarians and even diabetics.

“One piece a day is enough to see the changes,” says Petyaev.

Chocolate, in fact, has a long association with health, and the National Confectioners Association supports that 'modest consumption of dark chocolate or cocoa, in the context of a balanced diet, is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.' 

Says Petyaev: “I want to change people’s perception of true chocolate. What we have on the market today is not chocolate but chocolate-based confectionery. Chocolate was brought to Europe from Mexico as a health product. For about 400 years it was a remedy used for endurance, for the heart... it was rich in medicinal properties. Only in the mid-19th century was sugar introduced.”

So don’t expect to see any Esthechoc Easter eggs in the shops this year: instead it will be sold not as confectionery but at spas and beauty counters. A prominent UK retailer has apparently already placed a big order.

Petyaev is also working on other forms of functional food, including chocolate which helps boost cognition. So maybe chocolate really is the answer after all.

A box of Esthechoc containing 21 7.5g bars will retail for £35.