When a team of Italian nutritional researchers published their high-profile discovery last month that dark chocolate has greater anti-ageing benefits than milk chocolate, they had Polytechnic University's Iris Benzie to thank. In 1996, Professor Benzie, a clinical biochemist, developed a technique to measure the anti-oxidant levels of foods. Since then, it has become a standard laboratory tool. Now she receives calls from around the world, asking for technical advice. 'The university and I are in discussions to develop an easy-to-use test kit so even non-research laboratories could use it,' she said. Without a standard test kit, researchers have to assemble the chemical compounds and follow the procedures set out by Professor Benzie. The test is known as ferric reducing antioxidant power (frap) assay. It uses extremely sensitive chemicals, or reagents, that react to antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and measures their activity levels. Frap was patented by the university in the United States in 2001 and Professor Benzie is credited as its inventor. Despite the patent, it is free for researchers to use. The Italian team from Rome's National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research used the Frap test to discover that dark chocolate releases far more of an antioxidant called epicatechin, than milk chocolate. Their discovery, widely reported in newspapers worldwide, was published in an August 28 issue of the science journal Nature. The Italian team had contacted Professor Benzie for advice on the test but she was not part of their team.