Chapter 5

Cocoa Butter and Constituent Fatty Acids David Kritchevsky

Cocoa butter the fat component of cocoa comprises predominantly stearic and oleic acids, together with a smaller contribution from palmitic acid and only traces of several other fatty acids. The metabolic roles of stearic acid have not been studied as thoroughly as those of other fatty acids because it does not have a strong effect on human lipidemia (1, 2) and much of recent lipid research has been driven by effects on lipids, lipoproteins and atherosclerosis. However, stearic acid is a component of a number of dietary fats and its biologic and physiologic effects merit investigation. This is not to say that the biology of stearic acid has not been studied; it has, but not to the same extent as other long-chain fatty acids, namely, lauric, myristic and palmitic. There are differences in the specific utilization of all these fatty acids and eventually we will have to focus on individual effects rather than on the rough classification long-chain saturated fatty acids.

Although fatty acid metabolism has been studied using individual compounds, it is important to note that these fatty acids are present in our diet as components of triglycerides. Although the topic of triglyceride structure is not discussed here, it is important to note that the specific position of a fatty acid in a triglyceride may also influence its metabolic behavior (3, 4).

Digestibility of Stearic Acid

The absorbability of stearic acid was first studied by Arnschink (5) who reported that tristearin digestibility in dogs was 914%. Hoagland and Snider (6) found that in rats, tristearin and tripalmitin were 7% and 38% digestible, respectively. When the individual fatty acids were dissolved in olive oil, digestibility of palmitic acid/olive oil mix rose from 595% (39.6% digestible) to 1585% (31.2% digestible). Stearic acid digestibility rose from 9.4% (595% mix of stearic acid and olive oil) to 21.0% (1585% mix).

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