Don't you love what you can do with statistics and charts? This chart is from a great article in the New England Journal of Medicine: Chocolate Consumption, Cognitive Function, and Nobel Laureates. For a less scholarly report on the data, see this Reuters article.
The article begins like this.
Dietary flavonoids, abundant in plant-based foods, have been shown to improve cognitive function. Specifically, a reduction in the risk of dementia, enhanced performance on some cognitive tests, and improved cognitive function in elderly patients with mild impairment have been associated with a regular intake of flavonoids. A subclass of flavonoids called flavanols, which are widely present in cocoa, green tea, red wine, and some fruits, seems to be effective in slowing down or even reversing the reductions in cognitive performance that occur with aging.
One day, while apparently bored in a Kathmandu hotel room—I'm guessing it was night, or cloudy—the author, Franz H. Messerli, began to think.
Since chocolate consumption could hypothetically improve cognitive function not only in individuals but also in whole populations, I wondered whether there would be a correlation between a country's level of chocolate consumption and its population's cognitive function. To my knowledge, no data on overall national cognitive function are publicly available. Conceivably, however, the total number of Nobel laureates per capita could serve as a surrogate end point reflecting the proportion with superior cognitive function and thereby give us some measure of the overall cognitive function of a given country.
The results astonished him, though perhaps he should not be surprised: he is Swiss.
There was a close, significant linear correlation (r=0.791, P<0.0001) between chocolate consumption per capita and the number of Nobel laureates per 10 million persons in a total of 23 countries. When recalculated with the exclusion of Sweden, the correlation coefficient increased to 0.862. Switzerland was the top performer in terms of both the number of Nobel laureates and chocolate consumption. [emphasis mine]
The only possible outlier ... seems to be Sweden. Given its per capita chocolate consumption of 6.4 kg per year, we would predict that Sweden should have produced a total of about 14 Nobel laureates, yet we observe 32. 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.
Which perhaps explains why I need to eat more chocolate than Porter does, he being 1/4 Swedish.
Dr. Messerli reports regular daily chocolate consumption, mostly but not exclusively in the form of Lindt's dark varieties.
The above quotations were all from the NEJM article; the final ones from Reuters.
Messerli ... 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.
"[D]ark 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."
In case you were wondering, the date on Messerli's article is October 10, 2012. I guess they couldn't wait six more months.
Saturday, October 13, 2012 at
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