According to a short article from Tulane University Magazine, chocolate toothpaste is better than fluoride. This article doesn't offer lots of details, but has been widely taken up online. It simply states that a researcher found that an extract of cocoa powder "whose chemical makeup is similar to caffeine, helps harden teeth enamel, making users less susceptible to tooth decay." If this research is serious, a toothpaste using this cocoa extract could be available at your local drugstore within five years.
There have been previous attempts to sell chocolate flavored toothpaste. On the left, you can see two "limited edition 'active gel' fluoride toothpastes, made by Unilever Philippines Inc., under the name 'Closeup Flavalicious.' There are three flavors in all: Choco Loco, Luscious Lychee and Tangerine Burst." (Credit for image: this Flickr photo uploaded by chotda on September 21, 2005; credit for caption: Explanations Strange New Products on October 08, 2005)
But these toothpastes were just for fun, and the cavity-fighting component was still fluoride. And there are good reasons to keep it. In "Is Chocolate Good For You?," the BBC website describes a previous attempt to use cocoa to fight tooth cavities.
Chocolate could help prevent tooth decay, according to scientists at Japan's Osaka University. The husks of the cocoa beans from which chocolate is made contain an antibacterial agent that fights plaque. These husks are usually discarded in chocolate production, but in future they could be added back in to chocolate to make it dental-friendly. They concluded that the cavity-fighting action of cocoa bean husks isn't enough to offset decay caused by chocolate's high sugar content, however, so chocolate isn't going to replace toothpaste any time soon.
Has this balance between pros and cons of chocolate toothpaste changed? The Tulane University isn't very talkative about this. Here are some excerpts.
According to Tulane University doctoral candidate Arman Sadeghpour an extract of cocoa powder that occurs naturally in chocolates, teas, and other products might be an effective natural alternative to fluoride in toothpaste. In fact, his research revealed that the cocoa extract was even more effective than fluoride in fighting cavities. The extract, a white crystalline powder whose chemical makeup is similar to caffeine, helps harden teeth enamel, making users less susceptible to tooth decay.
The cocoa extract could offer the first major innovation to commercial toothpaste since manufacturers began adding fluoride to toothpaste in 1914. The extract has been proven effective in the animal model, but it will probably be another two to four years before the product is approved for human use and available for sale, Sadeghpour says.
Until I can read technical papers proving Sadeghpour's point, I'll remain skeptical.
Sources: Tulane University Magazine, May 16, 2007; and various websites
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