Good news for those who want to enjoy the taste of chocolate without the high fat content: scientists have figured out a way to keep chocolate in liquid form during production, which ends up cutting its fat percentage by as much as 20 percent.
It's all to do with the use of electric fields, which rejig the cocoa particles inside liquid chocolate to make it pour more easily - a role usually played by the high levels of fat added to the cocoa.
The discovery ties into a field of research called electrorheology (ER), and involves the study of how matter can be deformed and manipulated by electricity.
The physicists involved in the research, from Temple University in Philadelphia, found that by applying an electric field in the same direction as the flow of the liquid chocolate, they could reduce its viscosity in that direction – and only that direction.
By doing this, the team estimates that the fat content of chocolate can be cut from around 40-60 percent to something like 32-58 percent, though they're still figuring out the exact nutritional figures.
What happens during the new process is that the cocoa particles get aggregated into small chains as the electric field is applied, which means they're more highly organised inside the sticky chocolate, and flow in a certain direction more readily.
The upshot is clear: lower fat content means fewer calories, and a healthier chocolate bar. The researchers note in their study that they "are expecting a new class of healthier and tastier chocolate", in as little as a year. The study was partially funded by Mars Chocolate, so the Mars Bar could be first in line.
"The treated chocolate has wonderful taste," said lead researcher Rongjia Tao. "Some people even claim that the ER-treated chocolate has a slightly stronger cocoa flavour, better than the original chocolate."
With chocolate being such a beloved foodstuff, it's no surprise that a lot of research has looked at its various properties and how it affects our bodies. There is some evidence that small amounts of dark chocolate – rich in antioxidants – can increase feelings of calmness and contentedness.
And, of course, there's the added benefit that it tastes great too.
The new findings have been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.