# Secret to Winning a Nobel Prize? Eat More Chocolate

As the Nobel Prizes are being awarded this week, one U.S. scientist asks: could eating chocolate have anything to do with becoming a laureate?

Why would the sweet treat be linked to winning the most prestigious intellectual award, you ask? In a “note” published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Franz H. Messerli, a cardiologist at St. Luke’s–Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, writes that cocoa contains flavanols, plant-based compounds that previous studies have linked to the slowing or reversing of age-related cognitive decline. (You can also get flavonols in green tea, red wine and some fruits.)

Given that, Messerli wondered “whether there would be a correlation between a country’s level of chocolate consumption and its population’s cognitive function.” But since “no data on overall national cognitive function are publicly available,” Messerli decided to use the number of Nobel laureates per capita as a stand-in.

Messerli went to Wikipedia and downloaded a list of countries ranked by Nobel laureates per capita (only prizes awarded through 2011 were included), and then compared that data with each country’s annual chocolate consumption per capita, obtained from several chocolate trade associations. What he found was a “surprisingly powerful correlation” between the two.

The country with the most Nobel laureates per 10 million people and the greatest chocolate consumption per capita: Switzerland. Sweden came in a close second, and Denmark landed in third place. (See a graph of all 23 countries included here.)

The U.S. fell somewhere in the middle of the pack, along with the Netherlands, Ireland, France, Belgium and Germany, according to Messerli’s analysis. At the bottom of the list were China, Japan and Brazil.

And Sweden was an outlier. Messerli notes that given the country’s per capita chocolate consumption of 6.4 kg (14 lbs.) per year, one would expect it to produce a total of about 14 Nobel laureates — and yet Sweden has 32. Messerli writes:

Considering that in this instance the observed number exceeds the expected number by a factor of more than 2, one cannot quite escape the notion that either the Nobel Committee in Stockholm has some inherent patriotic bias when assessing the candidates for these awards or, perhaps, that the Swedes are particularly sensitive to chocolate, and even minuscule amounts greatly enhance their cognition.

The good doctor even calculated the dose of chocolate necessary to increase the number of Nobel laureates in a given country by one: 0.4 kg (0.9 lbs.) of chocolate per capita per year. For the U.S., that would amount to 125 million kg (275.6 million lbs.) of chocolate a year.

“Obviously, these findings are hypothesis-generating only and will have to be tested in a prospective, randomized trial,” Messerli writes with a wink, noting that the data doesn’t prove that eating chocolate actually causes superior intellectual function. It could be, for instance, that smarter people simply eat more chocolate.

Either way, at least one Nobel laureate, Eric Cornell, an American physicist who shared the Nobel Prize in 2001, is on board with the new findings. He joked to Reuters Health that eating dark chocolate was indeed the secret to his success: “Personally I feel that milk chocolate makes you stupid. Now dark chocolate is the way to go. It’s one thing if you want like a medicine or chemistry Nobel Prize, O.K., but if you want a physics Nobel Prize it pretty much has got to be dark chocolate.”

kamz26

@pthigah I'm willing to compromise that it's dark chocolate we have to consume. But chocolate nevertheless. *shakes hand of fellow laureate*

JohnPaulVergaraArocena

if you are moderate eater's of chocolate, you don't have to worry about your dental health, it is because there mild sweetness can protect your enamel of your teeth. the term "SWEET TOOTH".

Aimee L.

Actually, after read this news, I believe I will eat more chocolate than before, but I know it’s not going to make me much cleverer, as I eat chocolate always, but I keep silly from childhood till now… or maybe I will get dental problems first  =)

But I am not going to deny this subtle correlation between annual chocolate consumption per capita and the countries ranked by Nobel laureates per capita. As I think that nothing is impossible around this world.

Anyway, I support Dr. Franz H. Messerli insist on this research. This kind of research continued for a long time after all. And I had tried to eat lots of chocolate before exam for a long time, it had been my habit when I was a junior student, or maybe I will become a cleverer person when I am the old.  XD

Ewa

absurd, one thing its correlatated to is wealth of a country and its only one point which comes from the article and its the truth. just embarrassing to made an article under such a discovery. its a mental abbreviation, very indecorous though

Ewa

not truth

This study is such bullshit. First of all, they're assuming that the same group of people who are eating extra amounts of chocolate are becoming Nobel laureates. Chocolate consumption is measured for the whole national population. These countries have higher chocolate sales - which doesn't mean that the few people who are winning Nobel prizes are the ones eating a lot of chocolate. Seriously, how stupid does TIME think we are? And this isn't even an ecological or cross-sectional study with related health-topics which could possibly generate hypotheses. So ridiculous.

TheCasimirEffect

This is obviously a non-serious, cutesy tongue-in-cheek statistical study and article. Everybody arguing the merits of this study just got trolled real hard and needs to get a sense of humor.

Nicholas Wai

Interesting~ what about the population in countries that can't afford chocolate? Oh wait, they don't get education either. Maybe thats why.

Gary McCray

I'm a Mensa member and I eat a lot of heavy duty chocolate.

And all this time I just thought it was me.

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So, they eat a lot of chocolate in the European Union?

Chris Reed

apparently that's how Obama got his.  There wasn't any other reason

lullaby_sha

lol. the winner of nobel prize maybe come from the country produce or consume the most chocolate but doesnt meant they were consume it. i cant believe i read this trash

MeJustMe

Today's rationalization for eating chocolate brought to you by...

SilentBoy741

If any of that were true, my ex would've invented warp drive and time travel by now.

sammy99999

To win the Nobel Peace Prize, you don't need chocolate, or any accomplishments, just good intentions.

David Crandall

I agree, dark chocalate is good for health but look for products that contain a large percentage of cocoa compare to sugar.  Sugar is poison and we should do everything in our power to avoid it. And don't call chocolate a sweet treat because it is not sweet until it is poisoned by the food processing industry.

Sturfry

You don't get the health benefits of flavanols from eating chocolate. They must be extracted first, and then put into some sort of consumptive health supplement, like Cocoavia or something else. Again, eating chocolate does not give you the health benefit of flavanols. The writer should do the research.

Stabby Raccoon

This sounds like some sort of marketing propaganda. There are trials where people ate dark chocolate and had improved cognitive function compared with white chocolate.

Consumption of cocoa flavanols results in an acute improvement in visual and cognitive functions.

Cocoa flavanols

(CF) influence physiological processes in ways that suggest their

consumption may improve aspects of neural function, and previous studies

have found positive influences of CF on cognitive performance. In this preliminary study we investigated whether visual, as well as cognitive,

function is influenced by an acute dose of CF in young adults. We

employed a randomized, single-blinded, order counterbalanced, crossover

containing 720mg CF and a matched quantity of white chocolate, with a

one week interval between testing sessions. Visual contrast sensitivity

was assessed by reading numbers that became progressively more similar

in luminance to their background. Motion sensitivity was assessed

firstly by measuring the threshold proportion of coherently moving

signal dots that could be detected against a background of random

motion, and secondly by determining the minimum time required to detect

motion direction in a display containing a high proportion of coherent

motion. Cognitive

performance was assessed using a visual spatial working memory for

processes of sustained attention and inhibition. Relative to the control

condition, CF improved visual contrast sensitivity and reduced the time

required to detect motion direction, but had no statistically reliable

effect on the minimum proportion of coherent motion that could be

detected. In terms of cognitive

performance, CF improved spatial memory and performance on some aspects

of the choice reaction time task. As well as extending the range of cognitive

tasks that are known to be influenced by CF consumption, this is the

first report of acute effects of CF on the efficiency of visual

function. These acute effects can be explained by increased cerebral

blood flow caused by CF, although in the case of contrast sensitivity

there may be an additional contribution from CF induced retinal blood

flow changes.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu...

Dark chocolate, cocoa powder, whatever it is, it works.

As for being a significant factor in winning the Nobel Prize? Let's stop wasting our time with statistical shenanigans and just learn what can be learned through good science.