Eat more chocolate, win more Nobels?

by Marilynn Marchione And Karl Ritter
In this Nov. 26, 1999 file photo, employees package large Toblerone chocolate bars at the Kraft Jacobs Suchard AG factory in Bern, Switzerland. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012 ties chocolate consumption to the number of Nobel Prize winners a country has and suggests it's a sign that the sweet treat can boost brain power. It was published online as a "note" rather than a rigorous, peer-reviewed study. (AP Photo/Keystone, Martin Ruetschi)

Take this with a grain of salt, or perhaps some almonds or hazelnuts: A study ties chocolate consumption to the number of Nobel Prize winners a country has and suggests it's a sign that the sweet treat can boost brain power.

No, this does not appear in the satirical Onion newspaper. It's in the prestigious , which published it online Wednesday as a "note" rather than a rigorous, peer-reviewed study.

The author - Dr. Franz Messerli, of St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital and Columbia University in New York - writes that there is evidence that flavanols in green tea, red wine and chocolate can help "in slowing down or even reversing" age-related - a contention some medical experts may dispute.

Nevertheless, he examined whether a country's per-capita chocolate consumption was related to the number of Nobels it had won - a possible sign of a nation's "cognitive function." Using data from some major chocolate producers on sales in 23 countries, he found "a surprisingly powerful correlation."

Switzerland led in chocolate consumption and Nobels, when looked at according to population. The United States is in the middle of the pack with the Netherlands, Ireland, France, Belgium and Germany. At the bottom were China, Japan and Brazil. The study only includes Nobels through last year - not the ones being announced this week.

Curiously, Sweden should have produced only 14 winners according to its appetite for chocolate, yet it had 32. Messerli speculates that the Nobel panel, based in Sweden, may have "patriotic bias" toward fellow countrymen - or that Swedes are very sensitive to the effects of chocolate so that "even minuscule amounts greatly enhance their cognition."

It is possible, he admits, that chocolate isn't making people smart, but that smart people who are more likely to win Nobels are aware of chocolate's benefits and therefore more likely to consume it.

Sven Lidin, the chairman of the Nobel chemistry prize committee, had not seen the study but was giggling so much when told of it that he could barely comment.

"I don't think there is any direct cause and effect," Lidin said. "The first thing I'd want to know is how correlates to gross domestic product."

Messerli also calculated the "dose" of chocolate needed to produce an additional Nobel winner - about 14 ounces per person per year, or about nine Hershey bars.

He discloses that he is doing his part - he eats chocolate daily, mostly Lindt dark.

More information: Chocolate Consumption, Cognitive Function, and Nobel Laureates, www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMon1211064

Journal reference: New England Journal of Medicine search and more info website

2.8 /5 (4 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Eating chocolate cuts risk of heart disease

Aug 31, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- The researchers compiled a systematic review of seven studies using data from 114,000 patients and found that people who consumed the most chocolate had a 37 per cent lower risk of developing ...

Nice but naughty -- our addiction to chocolate

Sep 11, 2007

Chocolate is the most widely and frequently craved food. People readily admit to being ‘addicted to chocolate’ or willingly label themselves as ‘chocoholics’. A popular explanation for this is that chocolate contains ...

Recommended for you

German Merck to buy St. Louis-based Sigma-Aldrich

6 hours ago

German drug company Merck says it has agreed to buy St. Louis-based chemical firm Sigma-Aldrich Corp. for $17 billion in a deal Merck says will strengthen its business in chemicals and laboratory equipment.

The human race evolved to be fair for selfish reasons

Sep 19, 2014

"Make sure you play fairly," often say parents to their kids. In fact, children do not need encouragement to be fair, it is a unique feature of human social life, which emerges in childhood. When given the o ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

nuge
4 / 5 (4) Oct 10, 2012
I'm calling bullshit. It's simply because higher chocolate consumption is correlated with higher socioeconomic development, which is correlated with a better education system and more R&D, which in turn leads to more Nobel prize winners.

Correlation does not imply causation.
Silan
not rated yet Oct 11, 2012
I'm calling bullshit. It's simply because higher chocolate consumption is correlated with higher socioeconomic development, which is correlated with a better education system and more R&D, which in turn leads to more Nobel prize winners.

Correlation does not imply causation.


Agreed. This is junk.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Oct 11, 2012
Look at enough datasets of n numbers and you will find two datasets that correlate perfectly.

Statistics are all nice and dandy, but sometimes you have to be aware of their weaknesses and not just blindly publish numbercrunched results (or even extrapolate meaning out of such fluke hits).
alfie_null
3 / 5 (2) Oct 11, 2012
I'm with Dr. Lidin. It's just for fun. People here are too serious.

Who knows - maybe it's winning Nobel prizes that cause people to eat more chocolate.
physpuppy
not rated yet Oct 11, 2012
The other issue with this "study" is quite blatant -

It looks at the per capita consumption of chocolate - what do people do in the country on average - not the specific Nobel winners' consumption - which is possible to be close to zero. Or not. But it was not determined.

Of course then one might claim (if the winners did not eat chocolate) that living in a country where everyone else is eating chocolate inspired those scientists.

Like an onion, there are many layers to this story... :-)

nuge
not rated yet Oct 25, 2012
I'm with Dr. Lidin. It's just for fun. People here are too serious.

Who knows - maybe it's winning Nobel prizes that cause people to eat more chocolate.


Medical studies cost money to set up and take up researchers' time. And those researchers themselves take considerable time, effort and money to train and employ in the first place.

Therefore, I'd really rather they didn't waste time with bullshit "just for fun". They can have fun in their own time, but just like everyone else in the world, when they are working they should be...working.

There's a lot of important shit that needs to be studied, we can't afford to have capable people getting paid to fuck around.