Cocoa, the substance from which chocolate is made, is thought to have benefits to the human cardiovascular system and so has been the focus of many clinical trials. The results from those trials may be difficult to compare, unfortunately, because the research community has not had a standard for checking their measurements of cocoa’s active molecules, called flavanols. Flavanols are a set of complex polymers that occur in different forms in various foods, including berries, kale, onions, tomatoes, and tea.
In 2012, Mars Symbioscience, a part of Mars Inc., measured the flavanols in a cocoa material for their own use, but they recognized that wider availability of a standard material would help to propel the entire research field forward. Mars partnered with NIST and the standards organization AOAC International on more sensitive analytical methods to develop NIST Reference Material 8403, for which Mars provided the material.
If the many research groups studying flavanols use this standard material for checking their measurements of the amount of flavanols in their studies, research results will be more reliable and reproducible, allowing subsequent studies to build on earlier results.
NIST researchers used their expertise in liquid chromatography with fluorescent detection, mass spectrometry, and nuclear magnetic resonance to confirm the amount of flavanol in this material.
A unit of RM 8403 comprises five sachets each containing approximately 2 grams of powder that should be stored at -20 °C.