Eating chocolate produces Nobel prize winners, says study

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Chocolate brains: Can candy produce Nobel prize winners? Photo: Flickr - rhonogle
Chocolate brains: Can candy produce Nobel prize winners? Photo: Flickr - rhonogle
Brain power equals chocolate squared according to a study that says countries with high chocolate consumption produce more Nobel Laureates.

Occasional notes published in the New England Journal of Medicine by Franz Messerli compared the number of Nobel Laureates in each country to per capita annual chocolate consumption.

‘Surprising correlation’

It found a “surprisingly powerful correlation”​ that Messerli claims could mean that chocolate enhances cognitive functioning.

“It seems most likely that in a dose-dependent way, chocolate intake provides the abundant fertile ground needed for the sprouting of Nobel laureates,”​ said Messerli.

He pointed to previous studies which found that regular intake of flavanols present in cocoa could improve cognitive functioning in the elderly and in rats.

Smart Swiss, big chocolate-eaters

To reach his conclusions, Messerli plotted countries’ annual chocolate consumption against the number of Nobel Laureates per 10 million in the population.  

He chose the number of Nobel Laureates as a measure of the  proportion of people in a given country that showed superior cognitive functioning.

The study author's chocolate consumption against Nobel laurete winners graph
The study author's chocolate consumption against Nobel Laureate winners graph

The Swiss consumed the most chocolate and produced the most Nobel Laureates.

The Germans and British also regularly indulged in chocolate while churning out top prizes for academic excellence.

The Swedish anomaly

However, Sweden presented Messerli with an anomaly. Its chocolate consumption was relatively low, but it was producing the second highest number of Nobel Laureates.

“Sweden should have produced 14 Nobel Laureates, yet we observe 32,”​ said Messerli

He put this down to potential favoritism or Swedish sensitivity to chocolate.

“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,”​ he said.

Does chocolate create smarties?

The amount of chocolate required to boost the odds of getting a call to travel to Stockholm are unclear, said Messerli.

How much chocolate Albert Einstein, Marie Curie and other winners of the coveted Nobel Prize actually ate is also unknown.

Socio-economic factors that give nations greater access to chocolate were omitted from the study.


The New England Journal of Medicine
DOI: 10.1056/NEJMon1211064
‘Chocolate Consumption, Cognitive Function and Nobel Laureates’
Author: Franz H. Messerli, M.D.

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