What is the secret to winning a Nobel prize? A genius IQ? Long, lonely hours in the lab or library? An unfaltering commitment to establishing peace in the Middle East (good luck with that)?
Actually, it turns out that Nobel prizes are within reach for all of us, because the secret may be eating a lot of chocolate!
A study published Wednesday in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine ties chocolate consumption to the number of Nobel prize winners a country has, and suggests that chocolate can boost brain power. (Previous studies have shown that flavanols in chocolate can help slowing down or even reverse age-related mental decline.)
Dr. Franz Messerli of St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital and Columbia University in New York examined whether a country's per-capita chocolate consumption was related to the number of Nobels it had won -- a possible sign of a nation's "cognitive function." Using data from major chocolate producers on sales in 23 countries, he found "a surprisingly powerful correlation," USA Today reports.
Switzerland led in chocolate consumption and Nobels. The United States was in the middle with the Netherlands, Ireland, France, Belgium and Germany. At the bottom were China, Japan and Brazil. (The study only includes Nobels through last year -- not the ones being announced this week. Chinese writer Mo Yan --the first Chinese national to win the Nobel Literature Prize -- might have skewed the results otherwise.)
Strangely, Sweden should have produced only 14 winners according to its amount of chocolate consumption, yet it had 32. Messerli speculates that the Sweden-based Nobel panel might have "patriotic bias" toward fellow countrymen (ya think?). Or, it could be that Swedes are so sensitive to the smartypants effects of chocolate that "even minuscule amounts greatly enhance their cognition."
Of course, it could also be that people eat chocolate because they are smart, not that chocolate makes them smart.
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.
That is not a lot to ask, fellow citizens. Do it for your country!
Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook, and follow Samantha Bonar at @samanthabonar. Disclaimer: She is of Swiss ancestry, has a genius IQ, and is vehemently pro-chocolate consumption.
More playing with food: