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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.

Michelle Blair

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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.

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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

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3 Powerful Tools to Help Overcome the Emotional Toll of the Pandemic

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    The pandemic has had a significant effect on our lives. Possibly without realizing it, many are suffering from a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

  • Reflect On:

    If you feel stressed or feel that you have PTSD resulting from this pandemic, try these suggestions before resorting to medication or maladaptive coping strategies.

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

The pandemic has had a significant effect on our lives. Possibly without realizing it, many are suffering from a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Every news cycle paralyzes us with fear of a new variant. Some feel grief over who or what they have lost or continue to have feelings of social disconnectedness. Despite what we have all been through, we need to start moving forward with our lives and truly live again. We must recognize that we have more control over our physical and mental health than advertised. The truth is that there are many helpful things that we can do.

PTSD is a stress-related disorder that may develop after exposure to a traumatic event or ordeal in which death or severe physical harm was a threat or occurred. Those with PTSD may experience agitation, irritability, hostility, hypervigilance, self-destructive behavior, social isolation, flashbacks, fear, anxiety, depression, attention difficulty, loneliness, insomnia, or nightmares.

Trauma can lead to feelings of powerlessness, but powerlessness can also keep us trapped in a PTSD cycle. The psychological imprint of trauma rewires the brain. There’s an old saying in neuroscience: “neurons that fire together wire together.” Our brain neurons begin firing in the amygdala, the emotional part of our brains, during a traumatic event. People can get stuck in an emotional loop, and the rational voice in their heads does not weigh in. This looping can cause a person to respond disproportionately to stress – freezing, panicking, or acting out in anger. Some dissociate or enter a trance-like state. Maladaptive coping skills can sometimes develop. Cutting, burning, overeating, drinking, drugs, overspending, etc., is all an attempt to dampen our painful emotional feelings. So, to avoid getting stuck in a PTSD cycle, we must act and take our power back.

Time to seek out the most effective help so that we can feel calm and in control again. What can we do?

1. Boost Your Immune System

If you fear getting sick, it’s time to live a healthier lifestyle and boost your immune system. Sadly, we are taught (with the help of pharmaceutical dollars) that health comes from a needle or a pill. Our “experts” recommend masks, hand-washing, social distancing, and mRNA vaccines. Still, they seldom suggest a healthy diet, supplements, and other natural remedies to help improve our health and support the body to fight off illness and disease. Click here for my article that includes 16 Tips on Boosting Immunity.

2. Embrace Spirituality

Over the last 20 years, I have been honored to have worked with many great therapists, healers, spiritual leaders, and trauma survivors to witness the power of Spirituality in healing. Spirituality is an inner belief system providing an individual with meaning and purpose in life. Whether it involves a higher power, nature, religious rituals, meditation, mindfulness, or prayer, the premise is to stay connected to the core of who we are. That place of stillness within us holding the memory of wholeness, peace, inner strength, and balance – despite what has happened. A spiritual philosophy or practice can provide us with a bigger context for our experiences and clarify our purpose. Spiritual methods also connect us with a sense of community and support. Finding our tribe is essential in the face of trauma and loss. The spiritual journey often allows us to go inside ourselves and listen to our inner guidance and “knowingness.” The inner voice may know, for instance, that the virus will not hurt us, or what we are being told by the media is untrue. Spirituality also helps us shift our perspective from “why me” to “what can I do about it. It brings us a sense of power and control.

3. Guided Imagery & Bilateral Stimulation

Both tools are essential for the trauma therapy toolbox. They are noninvasive and helpful for overcoming the effects of trauma. Guided imagery can help us alter the negative or stressful pictures and thoughts in our minds and help us create new, more peaceful ones—a form of instilling positive affirmations. Before you read on, I thought you might like to download my 10-minute exercise. This science-based, comprehensive video will help you to cultivate a sense of inner peace and give you a way to help overcome the effects of this pandemic – GET IT HERE

Is There Science Behind This?

Science, yes. Magic, no. This method requires regular practice if you want to make lasting, long-term changes to the ways that you think and feel. The good news is that both guided imagery and bilateral stimulation are widely practiced and well-established practices. However, I recommend that if you are still struggling after repeated listening, you find a qualified trauma therapist to continue the work you have already started.

A Look At The Research

Guided imagery is a behavioral technique using a series of verbal suggestions to guide oneself or others in visualizing an image in the mind to bring a desired response in the way of a reduction in stress, anxiety, or pain. A growing list of empirical literature supports the use of these techniques in various physical and emotional conditions. Guided imagery resulted in a clinically significant reduction in PTSD and related symptoms in a returning, combat-exposed active-duty military population. Positive affirmations can positively affect the brain’s circuitry. There is MRI evidence suggesting that specific neural pathways are increased when people practice self-affirmation tasks.

Numerous research articles have established that bilateral stimulation is one of the most effective treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some therapists practice Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a combination of psychotherapy and bilateral stimulation. EMDR is very effective for treating a wide range of mental health issues due to emotional and physical trauma. During bilateral stimulation, patients tend to “process” the memory in a way that leads to a peaceful resolution. And, often results in increased insight regarding both previously disturbing events and long-held negative thoughts about the self.

“Bilateral Stimulation induces a fundamental change in brain circuitry, similar to what happens in REM sleep. It allows the person undergoing treatment to process and incorporate traumatic memories into general association networks in the brain. This therapy helps the individual integrate and understand the memories within the larger context of their life experience.” – Robert Stickgold, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School

Takeaway

If you feel stressed or feel that you have PTSD resulting from this pandemic, try the above suggestions and download my helpful video before resorting to medication or maladaptive coping strategies. Also, you can discover the many mind-body practices you can do at home to help manage stress more successfully and so much more. SIGN UP HERE to receive your free download today. To purchase my book Healing Without Hurting, click here.

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Our new course is called 'Overcoming Bias & Improving Critical Thinking.' This 5 week course is instructed by Dr. Madhava Setty & Joe Martino

If you have been wanting to build your self awareness, improve your.critical thinking, become more heart centered and be more aware of bias, this is the perfect course!

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Awareness

Boosting Your Mood and Improving Your Health With Vitamin D

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Vitamin D is essential for proper immune functioning and alleviation of inflammation.

  • Reflect On:

    Are you or someone you love suffering from depression or an autoimmune disorder? When is the last time you checked your Vitamin D levels?

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

Are you or someone you love suffering from depression or an autoimmune disorder? It appears vitamin D deficiency may be to blame.

Vitamin D is essential for proper immune functioning and alleviation of inflammation. The beneficial effects of vitamin D on protective immunity are due in part to its impact on the innate immune system and has numerous effects on cells within the immune system. Vitamin D is also involved in maintaining the proper balance of several minerals in the body. And, it helps to ward off the flu and many viruses and treat them. The latest research links vitamin D deficiency to many disease states. These disease states include cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease, depression, arthritis, and just about every other degenerative disease.

 “Vitamin D reduces depression. In a randomized, double-blind study, People with depression who received vitamin D supplements noticed a marked improvement in their symptoms.” – Journal of Internal Medicine

According to the Nutrition Research Journal, as many as 80% of people are deficient in vitamin D. Inadequate exposure to sunshine, poor eating habits, malabsorption, the VDR genetic mutation, and accelerated catabolism due to certain medications, dark skin pigment color, and too much sunscreen can be to blame. 

A doctor can check vitamin D levels with a simple blood test. Many mainstream doctors will suggest that you are within normal limits if your levels are 20-30ng/mL. However, for optimal health, the Endocrine Society and many functional medicine M.D.s and naturopaths will recommend levels of between 40-70 ng/mL for both children and adults. These doctors will also recommend a more aggressive replenishment program. For example, at age five, my son’s level was 24. The pediatrician recommended 500iu daily of supplementation, while our naturopath recommended 5,000iu daily for six months before retesting. Six months later, his levels were almost normal. 

“Through several mechanisms, vitamin D can reduce risk of infections. Those mechanisms include inducing cathelicidins and defensins that can lower viral replication rates and reducing concentrations of pro-inflammatory cytokines that produce the inflammation that injures the lining of the lungs, leading to pneumonia, as well as increasing concentrations of anti-inflammatory cytokines” – PubMed

How to Increase Your Vitamin D Levels

Get enough sun. Vitamin D3, “the sunshine vitamin,” is the only vitamin your body that is made, with the help of the sun. So be sure to get enough sun exposure to help the body make this essential nutrient. Hold off trying to protect ourselves from the rays of the sun at every turn by slathering sunscreen. Allow yourself to play outside, garden, and enjoy the rays in moderation.

If you must use some sunscreen, avoid chemical sunscreens made with toxic chemicals that cause thyroid dysfunction, endocrine disruption, allergies, organ toxicity, reproductive toxicity, skin cancer, development, brain, and metabolism problems. Shop for natural mineral-zinc-based certified products instead. When exposed to scorching climates or in the sun for extended periods, we use sunscreens by Babyganics, Badger, Babo Botanicals, and Goddess Garden products.

Eat a well-balanced diet, with foods higher in vitamin D. Although it is believed that we only get twenty percent from the foods we eat. Some foods higher in D include cod liver oil, fish, oysters, eggs, and mushrooms. 

Get checked for the VDR mutation. A blood test will determine if you have mutations in the vitamin D receptor. The consequence can be lower vitamin D levels and the inability to absorb vitamin calcium and many other minerals properly. According to a 2020 scientific report, supplementation of vitamin D can help improve VDR gene expression, so more supplementation may be necessary if you have this mutation.

“Something so simple. Vitamin D supplementation could improve the health status of millions and so becomes an elegant solution to many of our health problems today.” – Carol L. Wagner, MD – Medical University of South Carolina

Supplementation 101. Supplementation is often critical if you cannot properly metabolize or absorb enough vitamin D or not get enough sunshine. In areas with long winters and specific populations of people with darker skin color, supplementation may be even more critical. There are many supplements on the market. However, many tablet forms are not as bioavailable and harder to absorb. Therefore, it has been recommended that liquid forms are better. In addition, liquid D is often suspended in olive oil, which helps the vitamins to absorb more easily since it is fat soluble. One of my favorite brands is by Seeking Health. It does not contain any impurities or allergy-inducing ingredients. 

Final Thoughts

Boosting the immune system naturally works on your body’s innate wisdom. It supports the body to operate like a well-oiled machine, protects it from unwanted pathogens and disease, and helps ensure a healthy body and mind.

To receive more info on how you and your family can overcome ADHD, apraxia, anxiety, and more without medication SIGN UP HERE or purchase my book Healing without Hurting.

Dive Deeper

Click below to watch a sneak peek of our brand new course!

Our new course is called 'Overcoming Bias & Improving Critical Thinking.' This 5 week course is instructed by Dr. Madhava Setty & Joe Martino

If you have been wanting to build your self awareness, improve your.critical thinking, become more heart centered and be more aware of bias, this is the perfect course!

Click here to check out a sneak peek and learn more.

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General

Are Lockdowns Affecting Children?

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CE Staff Writer 2 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    We spoke to activist and mother Stephanie Sibbio about her co-creation of an organization called 100 Million Moms which seeks to empower women to stand up against injustices.

  • Reflect On:

    Are we choosing virus mitigation methods that are short sighted and harmful over the long term? Are they more harmful than the virus itself?

Before you begin...

Coherent icon

Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

The potential downsides of lockdowns during pandemics have been explored quite a bit – and the truth is the scientific community is quite divided on whether it’s the right move. On one hand a case can be made for effectiveness of lockdowns, but at quite a cost, while on the other hand many have shown lockdowns to be ineffective in slowing spread. How a study is organized and conducted can also dramatically change results.

Interestingly a study in Nature showed that “less disruptive and costly NPIs can be as effective as more intrusive, drastic, ones (for example, a national lockdown).” This essentially states that governments could choose effective ways to mitigate virus spread effectively without inducing unwanted and long term side effects on society as a whole via lockdowns – regardless, lockdowns are still widely being used.

One question we might have is, what about factors that are not so easy to measure right away? Things like long term psychological damage of being constantly stressed, out of touch with community and friends, and confined to our homes. What affects are children experiencing in their development and learning? We may not know exactly for quite some time.

I felt inspired to speak to a mother who has not only be asking this question with regards to her child, but who has decided to do something to push back against government measures, like lockdowns, that many citizens and scientist don’t agree with.

Along with another activist, Stephanie Sibbio created a movement called 100 Million Moms who, as their Instagram states, are a rights-based movement empowering moms all over the world to stand up against injustice. We advocate for natural health & medical freedom.

I spoke to Stephanie about how she has seen lockdowns affecting children, and her story in co-creating 100 Million Moms. In this discussion you will learn how you can get involved as well.

Further Discussion

A large meta analysis on mask wearing has shown that children are having physiological issues and learning challenges with prolonged mask wearing.

A group of doctors did a panel worth considering that discusses the potential harms of lockdowns and the science that supports the idea.

Dive Deeper

Click below to watch a sneak peek of our brand new course!

Our new course is called 'Overcoming Bias & Improving Critical Thinking.' This 5 week course is instructed by Dr. Madhava Setty & Joe Martino

If you have been wanting to build your self awareness, improve your.critical thinking, become more heart centered and be more aware of bias, this is the perfect course!

Click here to check out a sneak peek and learn more.

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