They said it was the sweet way to a sharper mind – are they wrong?

Friday 31 Oct, 2014 

  • Discover why you should question the health benefits of chocolate

  • This problem always happens when big business gets greedy

  • Don’t let a ‘Big Boy’ bully you at bedtime

‘How a cup of cocoa before bed can help improve your memory.’

A cheering and heart warming headline greeted me in the Daily Mail this week. I like it when the mainstream media catch up on natural health news.

They are usually late to the party and often distort a good story, but it is no bad thing that these types of stories keep appearing.

Of late I’ve noticed that the naysayers and pro-pharma lobby have been building a head of steam and attacking the natural remedy industry with the zeal of a Witchfinder General.

The likes of the MHRA are forcing companies who produce high quality and well proven remedies to repackage and re-label their products to comply with new laws and codes of conduct...

...effectively removing them from sale whilst this happens, leading to supply shortage.

So, a good news story about the power of a hot chocolate drink just helps balance the books a little.

But my comfortable contentment was destined to be short-lived.

Far from a well researched piece about the ancient healing properties of pure Incan cacao beans this story was all about a new chocolate drink from food giant Mars.

Apparently they are about to launch a ‘flavanol rich’ cocoa drink that has been shown to have significant benefits for brain and nerve function as well as for the cardiovascular system.

In my book this is just another recipe for disaster. Here’s why.

Big business can’t do common sense

As soon as one of the big companies starts to promote a naturally healthy product they mess it up or pervert the health story to support something that is just plain rubbish.

Take the use of probiotics to help treat IBS and other gut problems.

A good quality preparation of friendly bacteria and fungi introduced back into the digestive tract has been shown to be highly effective against these horrendous conditions.

But none of the probiotic yoghurt drinks you see advertised on TV or in the shops do anything for you at all.

Big companies like Yakult and Danone make hundreds of millions of pounds each year pushing their products onto the world market saying that they are packed with good bacteria... but they are not.

Scientists at University College London tested the top eight brands a few months ago and found that not one of them contained enough bacteria, or were prepared in such a way, that they would affect the gut flora.

Products like Actimel, Yakult, Bio-Kult and Probio7 lead the market, with up to 3 in 5 households buying them but they failed to pass even the most basic of tests.

Like I said, once big business gets involved they just mess it up, and I can’t believe that this new Mars drink will be any better.

Besides, why do we need it?

A dark tale of health

Natural dark chocolate has long been known to have significant health benefits, but you need to choose your cocoa bean wisely.

Picking up a bar of dark chocolate from the shops isn’t the right choice as these tend to be low in cocoa and high in sugar – even the 80% cocoa bars are not beneficial as they have suffered during processing which denatures their healthy properties.

What you need is dark and raw cocoa bean chocolate that has been carefully and sympathetically processed to retain its important anti-oxidants. 

Chief among these, and the one that Mars is basing its sales story around, are called flavanols.

According to professor Norman Hollenberg of Harvard Medical School these compounds can reduce the risk of four of the major health problems: stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes. He studied the Kuna people in Panama, who drink up to 40 cups of cocoa a week, and found the prevalence of the 'big four' is less than 10%.

New research by Colombia University Medical Centre has now attributed memory function to flavanol activity in the brain, and has shown that their presence is directly linked to improved blood flow.

Dr Clare Walton, research manager at the Alzheimer's Society, said: “This well-designed but small study suggests the antioxidants found in cocoa can improve cognitive performance by improving blood flow to a certain region of the brain which is known to be affected by ageing.”

Which is great and valuable news for those who are worried by the prospect of impaired cognitive skills in later life, and is something that I’ve commented upon before; in fact it is the reason that my dad has a hot chocolate drink every night.

The problem now is that I foresee Mars using this information to push an overly sweetened version into a market of concerned people and lead them to basically waste their money.

I could be wrong of course and discover that this multi-national food conglomerate finesses a production process to create a zero cholesterol, 100% cocoa, naturally sourced and no added sugar product that delivers exceptionally high levels of anti-oxidants and especially flavanols...

...but I’ll be willing to bet they don’t.

You see if you truly want the best in healthy drinking chocolate do what my dad does and choose something that actually does what the research says is important... that makes naturally available flavanols part of your daily diet.

Enjoy All Hallows Eve tonight (even in its commercially subverted form of Hallowe’en) traditionally a night to use humour and ridicule to confront the power of death...

...I like to think that’s what we do best here at The Good Life Letter!

I’ll be back on Sunday with another great natural health story about food – a real hot and spicy delight.

Yours, as always





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