Eat chocolate, win the Nobel Prize?

2012-10-11 21:27

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

New York - Of all the chocolate research out there, the most unabashed tribute to the "dark gold" has to be a study just published in one of the world's most prestigious medical journals.

Drum roll, please. The higher a country's chocolate consumption, the more Nobel laureates it spawns per capita, according to findings released in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The Swiss, of course, lead the pack, closely followed by the Swedes and the Danes. The US is somewhere in the middle and the nation would have to up its cocoa intake by a whopping 125m kg a year to produce one more laureate, said Franz Messerli, who did the analysis.

"The amount it takes, it's actually quite stunning, you know," said Messerli, who runs the hypertension programme at St Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York.

"The Swiss eat 120 bars - that is, 85g - per year, for every man, woman and child. That's the average."

Messerli admitted the whole idea is absurd, although the data are legitimate and contain a few lessons about the fallibility of science.

He came up with the idea for the study after seeing a study that linked flavonoids, a type of antioxidants present in cocoa and wine, to better scores on cognitive tests. He began with industry data on chocolate intake in 23 countries and a list from Wikipedia ranking countries according to the number of Nobel laureates per capita.

"I started plotting this in a hotel room in Kathmandu, because I had nothing else to do, and I could not believe my eyes," he told Reuters Health. All the countries linked up neatly on a graph, with higher chocolate intake tied to more laureates.

It's not the first time scientists have found correlations that seem to defy all logic - and indeed may. The number of storks across Europe has been linked to birth rates, for instance, and sunspots have been tied to suicides in men.

Dark chocolate

Another possibility is that the link is real, but meaningless.

"National chocolate consumption is correlated with a country's wealth and high-quality research is correlated with a country's wealth," said Eric Cornell, an American physicist who shared the Nobel Prize for physics in 2001.

"So therefore chocolate is going to be correlated with high-quality research, but there is no causal connection there."

When it comes to chocolate, several researchers have suggested dark varieties might benefit the brain, the heart and even help cut excess weight.

Messerli, who is of Swiss origin, admits to daily chocolate consumption and said that despite the tongue-in-cheek tone, he does believe chocolate has real health effects - although people should stay away from the sweeter kinds.

"Personally I feel that milk chocolate makes you stupid," joked Cornell, who "attributed" his success to the large amount of chocolate he eats.

"Now dark chocolate is the way to go. It's one thing if you want like a medicine or chemistry Nobel Prize, ok, but if you want a physics Nobel Prize it pretty much has got to be dark chocolate."

But other researchers said the evidence is still far from impressive at best.

"Certainly I have never seen anything that has made me start adding [chocolate] to my diet," said Yoni Freedhoff, an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa in Canada.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
Read more on:    us  |  health

linking and moving

2015-04-22 07:36 publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Rugby World Cup 2015

All the action from the 2015 RWC, including live coverage of all 48 matches, breaking news, fixtures, results, logs - and much more!


Rugby World Cup 2015

Ireland centre Payne out of RWC
Jones: Japan can be 'team of the tournament'
Tuilagi gets punishment cut
As it happened: New Zealand 47-9 Tonga
Traffic Alerts

The phrase for today is:”Out of the blue.” Expect the unexpected and work with the changeable energy. Your intuition is more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.