Hacolor, Pixabay

Chocolate’s Tasty Flavors Might Pose A Risk In Other Desserts

ArticlePress release
Health & Wellness
Nutrition & Dietetics
Contributed byKrish Tangella MD, MBAJul 05, 2024

What makes chocolate taste and smell so delicious? Chemistry, of course! A variety of molecules work together to create that unmistakable aroma, but those same molecules might carry some unwanted health effects if there are too many around. According to research published in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, while many of the compounds appeared in chocolate in low enough concentrations to be safe, higher amounts were found in some baked sweet treats.

When making chocolate, cocoa beans are roasted to help their chocolatey flavors shine. During this process, new molecules like α,β-unsaturated carbonyls are formed when they react with other ingredients under high temperatures. This class of carbonyls is highly reactive and potentially genotoxic, or able to cause damage to DNA when consumed. Though naturally found in many foods, these carbonyls are also used as flavoring additives, and some have been banned in the European Union, including the buttery-tasting furan-2(5H)-one. To better understand how these molecules form naturally in foods, and whether or not they are present in levels that could pose a health concern, Alexandre Dusart and colleagues tested chocolates and other sweet treats for 10 different α,β-unsaturated carbonyls — some of which have been confirmed as safe by the European Food Safety Authority, while others are still under evaluation.

The team created its own chocolates and found that α,β-unsaturated carbonyls formed during roasting and after the addition of cocoa butter; however, their concentrations remained too low to pose any health concerns from consuming the chocolates. Next, researchers screened 22 commercially available desserts, including crepes, waffles, cakes and biscuits, either with or without chocolate. In these packaged treats, they found even lower concentrations of nine of the 10 carbonyls compared to the chocolates.

The remaining carbonyl — genotoxic furan-2(5H)-one — appeared in much higher concentrations in the crepe and cake samples, reaching up to 4.3 milligrams per kilogram. Considering that the recommended threshold for genotoxic substances is only 0.15 micrograms per person per day, consuming these desserts could exceed that limit, though additional studies are needed to accurately assess the potential health risk.

Researchers concluded that the furan-2(5H)-one molecule likely formed during the baking process and did not seem to correlate with the amount of chocolate present in the packaged desserts. The team says that this work helps to better understand where these carbonyls come from in chocolate and highlights the importance of monitoring flavorings in food to keep consumers informed and safe.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Belgian Federal Public Service of Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment.

The paper’s abstract will be available on May 29 at 8 a.m. Eastern Time here: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.jafc.4c01043


The American Chemical Society (ACS) is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS’ mission is to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and all its people. The Society is a global leader in promoting excellence in science education and providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple research solutions, peer-reviewed journals, scientific conferences, eBooks and weekly news periodical Chemical & Engineering News. ACS journals are among the most cited, most trusted and most read within the scientific literature; however, ACS itself does not conduct chemical research. As a leader in scientific information solutions, its CAS division partners with global innovators to accelerate breakthroughs by curating, connecting and analyzing the world’s scientific knowledge. ACS’ main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

Note: ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies.

Follow us: X, formerly Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Instagram


Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry




Occurrence and Synthesis Pathways of (Suspected) Genotoxic <em>&alpha;</em>,<em>&beta;</em>-Unsaturated Carbonyls in Chocolate and Other Commercial Sweet Snacks



Was this article helpful

On the Article

Krish Tangella MD, MBA picture
Approved by

Krish Tangella MD, MBA

Pathology, Medical Editorial Board, DoveMed Team


Please log in to post a comment.

Related Articles

Test Your Knowledge

Asked by users

Related Centers


Related Specialties

Loading card

Related Physicians

Related Procedures

Related Resources

Join DoveHubs

and connect with fellow professionals

Related Directories

Who we are

At DoveMed, our utmost priority is your well-being. We are an online medical resource dedicated to providing you with accurate and up-to-date information on a wide range of medical topics. But we're more than just an information hub - we genuinely care about your health journey. That's why we offer a variety of products tailored for both healthcare consumers and professionals, because we believe in empowering everyone involved in the care process.
Our mission is to create a user-friendly healthcare technology portal that helps you make better decisions about your overall health and well-being. We understand that navigating the complexities of healthcare can be overwhelming, so we strive to be a reliable and compassionate companion on your path to wellness.
As an impartial and trusted online resource, we connect healthcare seekers, physicians, and hospitals in a marketplace that promotes a higher quality, easy-to-use healthcare experience. You can trust that our content is unbiased and impartial, as it is trusted by physicians, researchers, and university professors around the globe. Importantly, we are not influenced or owned by any pharmaceutical, medical, or media companies. At DoveMed, we are a group of passionate individuals who deeply care about improving health and wellness for people everywhere. Your well-being is at the heart of everything we do.

© 2023 DoveMed. All rights reserved. It is not the intention of DoveMed to provide specific medical advice. DoveMed urges its users to consult a qualified healthcare professional for diagnosis and answers to their personal medical questions. Always call 911 (or your local emergency number) if you have a medical emergency!