No one can deny the irresistible deliciousness of chocolate, and for those with a relentless sweet tooth, the blame is usually attributed to chocolate’s high sugar content. But there may be more to the appeal of this decadent treat than just its sweetness.
According to science, it boils down to one thing: lubrication.
Why Chocolate Feels So Good
In a January 2023 study published by ACS Applied Materials and Interface, researchers from the University of Leeds found that our fondness for chocolate might not just be about the taste—our adoration is also influenced by its mouthfeel. The true magic lies in the physical changes that happen as the chocolate transforms from a solid to a smooth emulsion.
Chocolate releases a fatty film when it enters the mouth, coating the tongue and other surfaces therein. As a result of this lubrication, the chocolate emits a luxurious, smooth feeling.
Interestingly, however, fat has a limited impact on mouthfeel deeper inside the chocolate. Once you get beyond the outer coating, solid cocoa particles are chiefly responsible for the tactile sensation in your mouth.
While interesting, you might be wondering why this research was conducted and what it means for chocolate lovers and the food industry in general.
The Impacts Of The Study
Researchers noted that because fat beneath the outer coating doesn’t play much of a role in creating a satisfying mouthfeel, it may be possible to reduce the fat content of chocolate without impacting the satisfaction level. This finding could contribute to the design of healthier chocolate that doesn’t taste chalky or chewy.
By coating the outer layer in fat, the chocolate would still fulfill that irresistible sensory experience, lowering or eliminating the need for additional fat inside. In addition, researchers believe these findings could also be applied to other foods such as ice cream, cheese, and margarine.
Though the study is fascinating, it doesn’t address the fact that flavor, regulated by the sugar content, is still a big part of why people love chocolate (and why some people prefer milk chocolate over dark).
Still, it’s exciting to think of the potential for healthier chocolate based on this research.