In this study we investigated the oligopeptide pattern in fermented cocoa beans and derived products after simulated gastrointestinal digestion. Peptides in digested cocoa samples were identified based on the mass fragmentation and on the software analysis of vicilin and 21 KDa cocoa seed protein sequences, the most abundant cocoa proteins. Quantification was carried out by liquid chromatography/electrospray ionisation mass spectrometry (LC/ESI-MS) using an internal standard. Sixty five peptides were identified in the digested samples, including three pyroglutamyl derivatives. The in vitro angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE)-inhibitory activity of cocoa digests were tested, demonstrating a high inhibition activity, especially for digestates of cocoa beans. The peptides identified were screened for their potential ACE inhibitory activity through an in silico approach, and about 20 di-, three- and tetra-peptides actually present in our samples were predicted as active. Two of the potentially active peptides were chemically synthesized and then assessed for their inhibitory activity by using the ACE in vitro assay. These peptides demonstrated an ACE inhibitory activity, however, that was too weak to explain alone the high activity of cocoa digestates, suggesting a synergic effect of all cocoa peptides. As a whole, results showed that an average chocolate portion (30 g) ensures an amount of peptides after digestion that, assuming complete absorption, could reach almost a complete inhibition of ACE.
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