12/06/2012 10:41 am ET

Chocolate With Viagra-Like Properties Floated As Possibility Amid Barry Callebaut Flavanol Claims

Those seeking a natural alternative to Viagra have long promoted the Aztec notion that chocolate is an aphrodisiac. Until now, most studies have indicated that chocolate compounds with the potential for aphrodisiac-like properties -- including tryptophan and phenylethylamine -- were present in too small amounts to have any measurable effect.

But a breakthrough from the world's largest chocolate-maker, Barry Callebaut, may change things. Over the summer, the company received a positive opinion from the European Food Safety Authority on its claims that cocoa flavanols, which are usually removed during conventional chocolate-making processes, help increase blood flow.

Cocoa flavanols, the company says in a release on its website, "help maintain endothelium-dependent vasodilation which contributes to normal blood flow." That's not so dissimilar from the aim of Viagra, which is more localized -- it only affects a man's nether regions, promoting a smooth muscle relaxation that leads to vasodilation and boosted inflow of blood to the penis.

The release goes on to explain that Barry Callebaut conducted more than 20 human clinical studies examining the impact of flavanols on the human body. The company says it used cocoa powder and chocolate products that, thanks to a method developed in-house called Acticoa, maintain up to 80 percent of cocoa flavanols.

The Daily Mail -- which goes so far as to suggest Barry Callebaut might develop Viagra-like chocolate -- writes that the European Union is weeks away from approving the claim and clearing Barry Callebaut to sell products made with "turbo-charged chocolate." If true -- and if cocoa flavanols really do have Viagra-like properties -- that could mean such chocolates in the form of drinks, cereal bars and U.K-style biscuits, which are similar to cookies.

The publication also shared insights from Angus Kennedy, founder of trade magazine Kennedy’s Confection, who said he could see the possibility of some men swapping blue pills for chocolate:

"It’s an all-natural ingredient which could give men the legendary staying power of some of the world’s greatest lovers. I’ve been in the business for 35 years and this is probably one of the most exciting things I’ve seen."

The Huffington Post reached out to Barry Callebaut, which would not confirm or deny the accurateness of The Daily Mail's claim. The company's head of media relations, Raphael Wermuth, said that it was "too early to discuss" potential health benefits of possible cocoa flavanol products, but he would be willing to do so once the company received approval from the European Union. He added that The Daily Mail had not contacted Barry Callebaut for comment in its story.

Barry Callebaut is currently the world’s leading manufacturer of cocoa and chocolate products with around 45 production facilities around the world.