Why Cocoa Puffs is Not Just a Cereal

bowl of cocoa puffs on yellow table
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A box of cocoa puffs can take you back to your childhood. If your parents weren’t the health-conscious types, your pantry will likely store this General Mills product, along with other sugary cereal boxes. It is tasty and an alluring meal for kids. But it turns out this simple breakfast item isn’t just packed with nostalgia.

Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs: The Research Paper

lab researcher looking in microscope
Photo by Lucas Vasqques on Unsplash

Do they still make cocoa puffs, you may be wondering? The answer is yes, General Mills still makes these chocolate flavored cereal balls. The only difference now is that the brand has decided to revert to its old recipe, which resulted in a denser, smaller puffs that were less chocolatey.

And it is still sold across the world — except in Iceland. The decision to use natural coloring in the cocoa puffs cereal has led to its removal in the Icelandic market. Turns out the natural coloring the brand uses does not comply with European Commission legislation.

Cocoa puffs has not just been subjected to regulations check. It has even figured in a research paper with a title that takes after its mascot’s famous tagline: “I’m cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!”

The research paper is called “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs? The Surgical and Neoplastic Role of Cacao Extract in Breakfast Cereals.” And it was written by Pinkerton LeBrain and Orson Welles.

Sound cuckoo? That’s because it is cuckoo.

The so-called research paper is bogus. Written through a tool that generates articles, “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs” has made the rounds of several medical journals. The paper’s abstract focused on the role of cacao extract on breakfast cereal. Through “rigorous statistical analysis, the fictitious LeBrain and Welles found that cacao extract does have “a significant role in breakfast cereal.”

Even with this bewildering conclusion: “Abilities forfeited situation extremely my too he resembled. Old had conviction discretion understood put principles you. Match means keeps round one her quick.”

Some 17 medical journals accepted the research paper for publication — as soon as the $500 (or more) fee was paid. Although the made-up research paper was never published, only because its creator was never going to pay for the processing fee, the response from journals reveals a flaw in publishing medical information.

Cocoa Puffs Cereal and Valid Sources of Medical Information

The idea behind the bogus paper came about after Mark Shrime, a medical researcher at Harvard, kept getting emails from open-access medical journals pitching that they’re open to publish his papers — for a fee. Shrime’s inbox was flooded, forcing him to filter emails. Even then, the emails kept coming. So a question came up about how these medical journals were vetting the papers they published, if they vetted them at all. Even more worrying, how would these papers be taken by those who read them.

And so “Cuckoo for cocoa Puffs” was born. The exercise proved to be concerning because more than half journals Shrime sent to accepted. When he checked out those journals, many had questionable physical locations. Most had seemingly legitimate publications, which was even more worrying.

If you were to look up information on a disease or treatment, you may be persuaded to use the details you find on papers published on those medical journals. At best, the results of those papers may be skewed to favor whoever funded the research. At worst, the information may be erroneous. And faulty or flawed information could harm people.

To be clear, the cereal brand has nothing to do with the bogus paper. It contains no sensible details and no factual data. So it’s not relevant to the breakfast product.

Are Cocoa Puffs Good for You?

cocoa puffs cereal box
Image from Amazon

Breakfast cereals are generally OK to eat for kids and adults. But many contain too much sugar and refined grains; processed food is, on the whole, not an ideal part of any diet. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a bowl of it now and then.

Cocoa puffs nutrition facts reportedly contain less sugar than other cereals, about 25 percent to 75 percent. The chocolate-flavored cereal is also low in saturated fat and is rich in carbohydrates. In general, cocoa puffs are better than other cereals with higher sugar content. So it could be good for you, but always practice what works for any food: take in moderation.

If you’re cuckoo or coo coo for cocoa puffs, it’s a good option for a morning meal. But with every spoonful, remember that this simple cereal is not so simple at all. And whenever you come across some research on a medical journal, think about cocoa puffs.