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 its a sign that the sweet treat can boost brain power.
No, this does not appear in the satirical Onion newspaper. Its in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, which published it online last week as a note rather than a rigorous, peer-reviewed study.
The author Dr. Franz Messerli, of St. Lukes-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 mental decline a contention some medical experts may dispute.
Nevertheless, he examined whether a countrys per-capita chocolate consumption was related to the number of Nobels it had won a possible sign of a nations 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 includes only Nobels through last year not the ones announced last 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 said, that chocolate isnt making people smart, but that smart people who are more likely to win Nobels are aware of chocolates benefits and therefore more likely to consume it.
Sven Lidin, 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 dont think there is any direct cause and effect, Lidin said. The first thing Id want to know is how chocolate consumption 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.
AP writer Karl Ritter contributed from Stockholm; Chief Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione reported from Milwaukee.