NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
NAD opened its inquiry into claims made for the product as part of its ongoing monitoring program and in conjunction with an initiative with the Council for Responsible Nutrition to expand the review of advertising claims for dietary supplements.
NAD requested substantiation for express claims that included:
“Add 1 to the number of lives you help protect. Your own. Firefighters have an extraordinary job. With it comes extraordinary stress on their hearts. CocoaVia daily cocoa extract supplement delivers the highest concentration of cocoa flavanols, which are scientifically proven to promote a healthy heart by supporting healthy blood flow, helping firefighters, or anyone, maintain who they are for years to come.”
“CocoaVia daily cocoa extract supplement delivers the highest concentration of cocoa flavanols, which are scientifically proven to promote a healthy heart by supporting healthy blood flow.”
The company notified NAD that it had decided to permanently discontinue a print advertisement that implied that use of the supplement would mitigate the cardiovascular disease risks of extreme stress. In reliance on the advertiser’s representation that the “Firefighter” print ad claims and references to “stress” in connection with cocoa flavanols were permanently discontinued prior to NAD’s inquiry, NAD administratively closed its review of the ad and stress mitigation claims.
NAD determined that the claim that cocoa flavanols are “scientifically proven to promote a healthy heart by supporting healthy blood flow” is an establishment claim—“in essence a promise that there is scientific proof that establishes the veracity of the claims,” NAD said in its decision.
As support for the claim, NAD noted, the advertiser relied on a growing body of scientific evidence that supports the role of cocoa flavanols in cardiovascular health, including studies commissioned by Mars. NAD noted certain flaws in the studies provided by the advertiser, including small sample sizes or unrepresentative sample populations. Despite these limitations, NAD found certain positive findings regarding cocoa flavanol consumption and the function of the cells that line blood vessels.
With respect to the claim that “CocoaVia daily cocoa extract supplement delivers the highest concentration of cocoa flavanols,” NAD recommended that the advertiser modify the claim to make clearer the basis of comparison, i.e. the representative chocolate confectionary products depicted in the chart and not against all products marketed to contain cocoa flavanol content.
Finally, NAD recommended that the claim “scientifically proven to promote a healthy heart by supporting healthy blood flow” be modified to better reflect the supporting evidence—that “studies indicate that cocoa flavanols promote a healthy heart by supporting healthy blood flow.”
Mars said it will take the NAD decision into account in developing future advertising for CocoaVia products. “The Company appreciates NAD’s diligent review of the science regarding the consumption of cocoa flavanols and heart health…”