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Mars & Nestle Spend Millions On Dark-Chocolate Research, Is It A Trick or a Treat?

As it turns out, chocolate companies are funding a lot of the research that suggests cocoa and dark chocolate are healthy.



You may have heard the latest health food craze: Dark chocolate is a “super food.” Allegedly high in flavanols, cocoa is often added to smoothies, protein bars, and most certainly chocolate products for an added nutrient and flavour punch. But, what if this obsession over cocoa and dark chocolate isn’t quite as healthy as we’ve been led to believe?

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As it turns out, big chocolate companies like Nestlé and Mars have spent millions of dollars to fund research and scientific studies that purport the health benefits of cocoa and dark chocolate. That’s a clear conflict of interest, and we’ve seen how large corporations can impact “expert opinions” and “scientific data” before.

The sad truth is, the results of scientific studies are often less about accuracy and more about reflecting the desired outcome of whoever is funding the research. The question here is: Is chocolate actually healthy for you, or was this data swayed based on corporate interests in order to convince consumers that chocolate was healthy?

Of course, we know that the chemical-ridden, sugar-filled milk chocolate you’d buy at a conventional supermarket is not healthy for your body, but a lot of people have this false idea that dark chocolate, no matter what its ingredients, “isn’t so bad.”

And we’re wondering, just how bad could this be for you?

Big Chocolate Companies Fund “Pro-Cocoa” Research 

Over the last 30 years, chocolate companies including Nestlé, Hershey’s, and Mars have been spending millions of dollars on funding research and scientific studies that support the health claims surrounding cocoa.

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You see cereal with added dark chocolate to it all the time, even if it’s in the organic section of the supermarket. Many would argue that’s because it’s rich in iron and is apparently very nutritious, but is it actually, or is this just what chocolate companies want you to think?

“Mars and [other chocolate companies] made a conscious decision to invest in science to transform the image of their product from a treat to a health food,” explained New York University nutrition researcher Marion Nestle (and no, she has no relation to the corporation Nestle). “You can now sit there with your [chocolate bar] and say I’m getting my flavonoids.”

Much of the research funded by these companies pertains to a group of compounds called flavanols, which are micronutrients found within tons of different fruits and vegetables. Flavanols can also be found in cocoa, and are high in antioxidant properties.

Vox performed a review of 100 different health studies on cocoa that were funded, supported, or influenced by large chocolate companies and found that an astonishing 98% of those studies were positive. The remaining 2% found chocolate or cocoa either had minimal effects on health or posed some risks.

Vox reported:

Among the findings in the Mars-sponsored health studies: Regularly eating cocoa flavanols could boost mood and cognitive performance, dark chocolate improves blood flow, cocoa might be useful for treating immune disorders, and both cocoa powder and dark chocolate can have a “favorable effect” on cardiovascular disease risk. The institutions that received Mars support stretch across the US and all over the world — from UC Davis to Harvard and Georgetown universities, from Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany, to the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The issue at hand is, these companies could be establishing a research bias for cocoa and chocolate. Not only could the results of these studies be influenced by these corporations, which clearly have a vested interested in the outcomes, but, by only focusing on one compound, they’re forcing the science on cocoa and dark chocolate to become fairly linear.

In addition, this research is often used to back the ideology that all chocolate is good for you. In reality, if dark chocolate has lots of refined sugar in it, is highly processed, or isn’t organic, then it’s not good for you. But, when consumers hear that chocolate has these magical compounds in it that are high in antioxidants, many will start to justify eating it, despite the potential health risks of the other ingredients.

These companies then use this research to help advertise the health benefits of dark chocolate. For example, take a look at this Nestlé article, featured on their webiste, which claims dark chocolate is beneficial for human health and can be considered a part of a “healthy, balanced diet.” Can the additional refined sugar, milk fat, and potential pesticide residue found in your dark chocolate also be considered a part of a healthy, balanced diet?

The media hasn’t helped in clarifying any of this, either. Headlines like “Good news for chocolate lovers: The more you eat, the lower your risk of heart disease,” or simply “Chocolate is good for you” by major mainstream news outlets have encouraged consumers to think that chocolate is great for the body, regardless of the type. Many of these claims are exaggerated or unsubstantiated, causing further confusion about what’s healthy and what’s not.

Tons of these companies actually own, run, or influence giant research facilities on cocoa, such as the Mars Center for Cocoa Health Science in Brazil, Mars Symbioscience, and Nestlé’s “Nestle Chairs” sponsorships at various research institutions. Although this could be completely harmless, it could also mean that the research is impacted by their corporate interests.

This has happened countless times in the past. For example, Monsanto has funded pro-GMO studies and has ghostwritten safety reviews on GMOs which are then published under the names of  “trustworthy” scientists (read more in our CE article here), even though its herbicide, used on GMOs, is carcinogenic.

False claims about nutrition happen all the time when it comes to our food system, and our thought processes often perpetuate these claims as well. People think gluten-free products are healthier because our brains immediately assume that just because a product is “free” of an ingredient, then that must be a good thing. Big companies will use marketing techniques and ‘science’ to make us think that something is healthy, when in reality it’s not.

Take the “Got Milk” ads, for example. We’ve been led to believe we’re getting a healthy source of calcium when we drink milk, when in reality we cannot actually intake that calcium without equal parts magnesium. Instead, we’re just getting a healthy dose of fat, high calories, pus, blood, and hormones, all while increasing our risk of some very serious diseases, including cancer.

Most of us don’t question these ads, which is in part because of what doctors and governments tell us. The North American governments advertise that meat and dairy are part of a healthy diet, when research suggests otherwise. The government has a vested interest in meat and dairy sales because they subsidize these industries and have spent significant amounts of money on education that promotes the supposed “health benefits” of these foods.

It’s very clear that many of us really trust corporations and the government when we see certain ads that make health claims. However, given all of this information, it’s equally clear we need to do our own research. So, what’s the official verdict on dark chocolate?

Is Verdict Is in on Dark Chocolate?

New York Times best-selling author Michael Moss put it well when he said in his book Salt Sugar Fat: “Dark chocolate probably has some beneficial properties to it . . . but generally you have to eat so much of it to get any benefit that it’s kind of daunting, or something else in the product counteracts the benefits. In the case of chocolate, it’s probably going to be sugar.”

So, how much chocolate would you need to eat in order to enjoy the health benefits from those super nutritious flavanols chocolate companies advertise as being so good for you?

The following image will give you a pretty good idea:

Although conventional chocolate, including dark chocolate, is not good for you, some high-quality cocoa products and organic chocolate and cacao can be good for the body, but often times only in small quantities. Keep in mind that chocolate, regardless of its maker, is usually still high in sugar (even if it’s organic), fat, and calories.

Final Thoughts 

All of this being said, this is a wonderful reminder of the importance of doing your own research. It’s crucial that we check who is funding certain studies in order to identify any conflicts of interest, and then form our opinions accordingly.

Like many foods, chocolate certainly has some good and bad qualities. What’s important for us to remember is, just because something has some good nutritional properties to it, doesn’t mean these negate the bad. In the case of chocolate, even if you’re eating an organic brand, you could still be getting some sugar, unhealthy fats, and whatever else is in your chocolate bar outside of the cocoa/cacao.

If you’re looking for a good chocolate fix and would prefer to stick to a healthier brand, I’d recommend taking a look at Giddy YoYo or Chocosol products, both of which offer chocolate made with 100% cacao — no dairy, no sugar, no chemicals, just pure chocolate!

Much love, my fellow choco-holics.

An Article Presenting A Different Perspective

The Amazing Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Free Franco DeNicola Screening: The Shift In Consciousness

We interviewed Franco DeNicola about what is happening with the shift in consciousness. It turned out to be one of the deepest and most important information we pulled out within an interview.

We explored why things are moving a little more slowly with the shift at times, what is stopping certain solutions from coming forward and the important role we all play.

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Boy or Girl – Baby Gender Selection Issues



Some parents have the possibility to opt for gender selection; however, being able to decide whether to have a baby boy or girl is a controversial issue.

Many couples expecting a baby do not think it’s a big issue whether they have a boy or a girl; however there are several medical, social, and personal reasons that could influence parents to recur to some form of gender selection.

Like many other controversial practices, the legality of gender selection, also known as sex selection, varies from country to country.

The Legality of Baby Gender Selection

The United States has perhaps some of the most relaxed laws regarding baby gender selection in the world. Most European countries and Australia, on the other hand, have bans on sex selection and only allow it for medical reasons. For example, if a parent is a carrier of a mutation or gene with more chances of manifesting itself in a certain gender, baby gender selection is valid. However, if parents simply wish to balance the ratio of boys and girls in their family, they are not allowed to recur to sex selection.

This has generated a form of medical tourism in which couples from countries where gender selection is illegal, like the UK, travel to the US in order to be able to choose whether to have a baby boy or girl.

On the other hand, sex selection is illegal in the two most populated countries on Earth, China and India. In these countries, baby gender selection has been performed clandestinely for many years and for reasons other than family balancing or avoiding genetic diseases. In these societies, having a baby boy is preferred mainly for cultural and economic reasons. Parents believe that boys have better chances of earning income and eventually support them when they reach an old age.

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Methods of Baby Gender Selection

There are two major types of gender selection methods: the first one is called sperm sorting, and involves separating X-chromosome sperm from Y-chromosome sperm by flow cytometry, a purification technique in which chromosomes are suspended in a stream of sperm and identified by an electronic detector before being separated. Intra-uterine insemination or in-vitro fertilization can then be performed with the enriched sperm. The success rates for this method vary from 80% to 93%.

The other method, called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, consists in generating several embryos through in-vitro fertilization, which are then genetically tested to determine a baby’s gender. The chosen embryos can then be implanted. This method has a success rate of almost 100%; however, it can be quite expensive, costing up to $15,000.

Issues Regarding Baby Gender Selection

While there are few objections against baby gender selection when it is performed for medical reasons, it has become a highly controversial issue when it is used for balancing the number of boys or girls in families. Some people raise the obvious ethical question of whether people who opt for gender selection are “playing God” by manipulating whether to have a baby boy or girl. Others believe that new parents will raise a baby more appropriately if he or she belongs to their preferred gender.

Gender Imbalance Caused by Baby Gender Selection

Gender selection has caused demographic concern in China and India since it has contributed to generate a gender imbalance in the populations of those countries. In some regions of China, for example, the sex ratio for newborns is 118:100, boys to girls. This phenomenon has in turn been associated with social problems such as an increase in violence and prostitution.

It seems like a logical solution for governments around the globe to legalize baby gender selection but to analyze the personal reasons why each couple intends to select a baby boy or girl. Gender selection for medical reasons should even be encouraged, since it could prevent serious genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease, and Haemophilia A. Balancing the gender ratio of a family should be accepted if by doing this, a healthy family environment is created. On the other hand, China and India have shown that baby gender selection as a result of a bias towards a particular gender can not only create a gender imbalance in the population, but contribute to social problems as well.

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We interviewed Franco DeNicola about what is happening with the shift in consciousness. It turned out to be one of the deepest and most important information we pulled out within an interview.

We explored why things are moving a little more slowly with the shift at times, what is stopping certain solutions from coming forward and the important role we all play.

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Organic Certification: What the USDA Organic Label Means



In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Organic and natural labels mean different things, and various types of labels tells you what percentage of ingredients are actually organic. We'll explore what to look for.

  • Reflect On:

    Do you sometimes buy products thinking they are organic or fully natural based on their wording? Have you later found out that those products aren't natural or organic at all? Read labels more closely at grocery stores to be aware.

Don’t get conned by fraudulent claims of “natural” or “organic.” Learn what to look for, and why it’s important, to ensure you’re getting the quality you are paying for.

The industrial age of the 20th century brought about changing agricultural practices that have generated increasing alarm about the effects of these practices on the environment and health. The use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, irradiated and genetically altered food and fiber products has created a groundswell of rightful concern. It has led to the growing demand for non-toxic, organic products that many are willing to pay a higher price for to ensure the healthful purity of food and clothing provided for their families.

With such profit opportunities, it’s little wonder that the lucrative organic product market has suffered abuse with so-called “organic” labels being fraudulently placed on products that have not earned the right. As a result of pressure from farming and consumer groups, legislation for the standardization of organic certification was introduced in the 1980s. It has been updated to include more vigorous enforcement and control methods since, with the current standards established in 2002 by the USDA.

The Standards of USDA Organic Certification

Specific standards must be met in order to legally claim a product as USDA certified organic. Organic producers must utilize methods that conserve water, maximize soil health, and reduce air pollution. The specific standards to earn USDA organic certification include:

Free of synthetic chemicals such as insecticides, herbicides, fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics, and additives

Free from irradiation and genetically modified organisms

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Agricultural products grown on land that has been free of prohibited substances for a period of three years

Animals used for meat, eggs, milk or other animal products must be exclusively fed foods that are organically grown, may not be given antibiotics or hormones, and must have access to outdoors.

Clean and sanitized harvesting and processing equipment throughout the process from harvest to finished, packaged product

Detailed chain-of-handling records from the field through final sales

Physical separation of certified organic products from non-organic products throughout the process of production

Regular on-site inspections from USDA-approved inspectors to ensure compliance

Understanding the Certified Organic Label

Once the rigorous process of certification has been completed, organic producers may place the USDA certified organic seal on their products. Currently, there are four levels of certified organic products, with a specific definition of the percentage of organic ingredients the final products contains. They are as follows:

• 100% organic: all production methods and ingredients are USDA certified organic.

• Organic: at least 95% of the production methods and ingredients are USDA certified organic with remaining ingredients included on the National List of allowed ingredients.

• Made With Organic Ingredients: at least 70% of the ingredients are USDA certified organic with remaining ingredients included on the National List of allowed ingredients.

• No organic wording or seal: less than 70% of the ingredients are USDA certified organic and no claims may be made on the front or back of the product.

Manufacturers or producers who knowingly label a product “organic” when it does not meet the USDA standards are subject to fines up to $11,000 per violation.

Why Organic Certification is Important

When you see the official USDA organic certification seal on food, clothing, and bedding products, you can be assured that these products have met the meticulous standards required and are free of chemicals, toxins, antibiotics, and hormones. When you see the USDA certified organic label, you will understand the value of the higher priced organic products as compared to non-organically produced products.

With the current stringent organic certification requirements enforced by regular inspections from USDA accredited agents, the USDA certified organic label has great meaning and importance to the consumer. Look for the label to know that you are getting the quality you are paying for.

Free Franco DeNicola Screening: The Shift In Consciousness

We interviewed Franco DeNicola about what is happening with the shift in consciousness. It turned out to be one of the deepest and most important information we pulled out within an interview.

We explored why things are moving a little more slowly with the shift at times, what is stopping certain solutions from coming forward and the important role we all play.

Watch the interview here.
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WHO Finds Global Lack Of Inactivity Rising Especially In Wealthier Countries — What You Can Do



In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Inactivity is on the rise and it's the cause of a wide range of health concerns. Our population is only becoming more inactive, not less, and it's time to change that.

  • Reflect On:

    There are many factors of our modern world that make us less active. Our jobs, driving rather than walking/biking, too much screen time. What can you do differently to bring more activity into your life? What story stops you from starting?

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than a quarter of the entire population on this planet are not getting enough physical exercise, this number has barely improved since 2001. There are many factors that contribute to this, but just how much damage are we doing by failing to be active?

The lack of physical exercise raises the risk of many health problems, such as heart disease, type-2 diabetes and various types of cancers.

Interestingly, according to their study published in The Lancet Global Health, higher income countries, such as the UK, were among the least active population. Women were also found to be more sedentary throughout the world, excluding two regions in Asia.

The study looked at self-reported data on activity levels from 358 population based surveys covering 168 countries and included 1.9 million people.

The populations of higher income countries, which include the UK and USA showed an increase in the proportion of inactive people and had actually risen from 32% in 2001 to 37% in 2016, in the lower income countries it remained at 16%.

Those who were classified as inactive did less than 150 minutes of moderate exercise and around 75 minutes of intense activity per week.

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It was found that women were less active than men overall, except for in South and Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and higher-income Western countries. The authors believe that this was caused by a few different factors including extra childcare duties and cultural perspectives that may have made it more difficult for them to exercise.

Why More Inactivity In Wealthier Countries?

According to the researchers, in the wealthier countries, many of the jobs have transitioned to more office or desk jobs, meaning a more sedentary type of lifestyle. On top of that much of the population of these countries drive automobiles or take public transit to and from work which in many cases accounts for a lot of their time.

In the lower income countries, many of the jobs require the people to be more active, are physically demanding and people often have to walk to and from their jobs.

The WHO has had a goal to reduce the global levels of inactivity by 10% by 2025, the authors of the study feel that at the rate we are currently going, this target will be missed.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Regina Guthold said, “Unlike other major global health risks, levels of insufficient physical activity are not falling worldwide, on average, and over a quarter of all adults are not reaching the recommended levels of physical activity for good health.”

Regions with increasing levels of insufficient physical activity are a major concern for public health and the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.”

Co-author, Dr. Fiona Bull added, “Addressing these inequalities in physical activity levels between men and women will be critical to achieving global activity targets and will require interventions to promote and improve women’s access to opportunities that are safe, affordable and culturally acceptable.”

According to the WHO,

Exercise guidelines for 19- to 64-year-olds

How much?

  • at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity every week
  • strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles
  • break up long periods of sitting with light activity

What is moderate aerobic activity?

  • Walking fast, water aerobics, riding a bike on level ground or with a few hills, doubles tennis, pushing a lawn mower, hiking, skateboarding, rollerblading, volleyball, basketball

What counts as vigorous activity?

  • Jogging or running, swimming fast, riding a bike fast or on hills, singles tennis, football, rugby, skipping rope, hockey, aerobics, gymnastics, martial arts

What activities strengthen muscles?

  • lifting weights, working with resistance bands, doing exercises that use your own body weight, such as push-ups and sit-ups, heavy gardening, such as digging and shovelling, yoga

What activities are both aerobic and muscle-strengthening?

  • circuit training, aerobics, running, football, rugby, netball, hockey

Final Thoughts

I was surprised to see that the WHO didn’t touch on inactivity due to too much screen time — watching television, Netflix, Facebook scrolling, messaging, texting, browsing etc. Certainly, the increase in screen time plays a roll with the amount of inactivity, especially in the higher income countries. If you are someone who spends too much time staring at a screen, then it is important to consider the above information. Can you limit your screen time and replace it with something active? Or would you consider jumping rope, or rebounding while watching the television? Our health is our greatest wealth and having awareness about an issue is the first way to create change and take responsibility for our lives.

Could you walk or bike to work instead of drive? What about trying a new sport? Could you commit to adding a few hours each week of physical activity? These small decisions could have a profound impact on your health, longevity and overall well-being.

Much Love

Free Franco DeNicola Screening: The Shift In Consciousness

We interviewed Franco DeNicola about what is happening with the shift in consciousness. It turned out to be one of the deepest and most important information we pulled out within an interview.

We explored why things are moving a little more slowly with the shift at times, what is stopping certain solutions from coming forward and the important role we all play.

Watch the interview here.
Continue Reading
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