If you think cacao is only good for making chocolate, think again. Scientists from UP Los Baños (UPLB) have discovered and developed a new product that comes from a most unlikely source, one that’s considered waste—the cacao pod husk.
At the Food and Feed Laboratory of the UPLB National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (BIOTECH), researchers Tess Ramirez and Arcie Sapin have found a viable dietary fiber source in the husk that’s discarded after the precious cacao beans have been harvested from the pod to make chocolate. They processed the husk, treated it with enzymes, and developed a powder as food supplement for human consumption.
This food supplement is high in fiber, high in protein and rich in antioxidants. Based on the UPLB College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), it was low on the Glycemic Index and actually lowered the blood glucose levels of the diabetic lab mice when they tested it for feeding trials. The trials involved feeding the mice with the cacao pod husk powder, a commercially available dietary fiber supplement, and glibenclamide, an anti-diabetes drug. It also included one that wasn’t given any drug or supplement at all. Among all the mice, the ones who were fed the BIOTECH product had fasting blood sugar level results comparable to those who were fed glibenclamide.
Ramirez and Sapin’s dietary fiber powder is good news not only for diabetics but also for those with high levels of low-density lipoproteins or bad cholesterol, and those with indigestion. This alternative dietary fiber source is also a welcome development for those who want to achieve a healthier body. Their product is so versatile; it can be used by food manufacturing companies for mass production and by individuals for personal consumption.
Ramirez and Sapin had explored food applications for the powder. Their fellow researchers at the Food and Feed Lab were more than willing to be guinea pigs and sampled the food items: pandesal,
Ramirez and Sapin’s work has produced a high value product from cacao waste— a huge step in helping the Philippine cacao industry manages waste from processing. It was Dr. Rene Espino, former division head of the Department of Agriculture’s High Value Commercial Crops, who posed the challenge of waste utilization from existing agricultural industries.
In the Philippines, cacao has been recognized by the national government as a crop with high local and international demand. In fact, the Philippine Cacao Industry Roadmap was signed early this year at Malacañang Palace to strengthen the industry of what is now considered a very important global commodity.
So not only have Ramirez and Sapin managed to come up with a product that’s healthy, edible, and tasty, but they’ve also found a way to use what was previously just rubbish to help decrease waste products from cacao industries.