Today’s Headlines: Health Conspiracies, Sleep Deprivation and Dark Chocolate

Health conspiracy theories are widely believed: “Nearly half of American adults believe the federal government, corporations or both are involved in at least one conspiracy to cover up health information, a new survey finds.” According to the survey of 1,351 adults, about a third of Americans think the Food and Drug Administration is keeping “natural cures for cancer and other diseases” from the public due to drug company pressure, and one in five think officials are hiding evidence that cell phones cause cancer. Forty-nine percent believe at least one health conspiracy theory and 18% believe in at least three. “Those who believe at least three health conspiracy theories are less likely to use sunscreen, get flu shots or get check-ups and are more likely to use herbal remedies and eat organic foods.” (USA Today)

Shift workers beware: Sleep loss may cause brain damage, new research says: Taking a few extra naps and sleeping in on the weekends won’t make up for not sleeping enough overnight, according to a new study. After mice were put on a sleep schedule similar to that of shift workers, where they were allowed to take short naps but were repeatedly woken up, the little creatures experienced a 25% loss of neurons in an area of the brain associated with alertness and cognitive function. The study found that mild sleep deprivation stimulated cells to manufacture a protective protein, but that this process shut down after prolonged sleep loss. “The discovery that long-term sleep loss can result in a loss of brain cells is a first,” according to the researchers. (CNN)

Dark chocolate’s benefits released by ‘good’ gut bacteria: A new study has shed light on just how dark chocolate benefits the heart. Researchers found that good bacteria such as Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria in the digestive system feast on dark chocolate and release beneficial and anti-inflammatory compounds into the body. “These anti-inflammatory compounds decrease cardiovascular tissue inflammation, which reduces the risk of stroke.” The researchers said that “combining cocoa products with a diet rich in prebiotics— foods that are beneficial for good gut bacteria— may be even more beneficial to a person’s health.” (Fox News