The above chart showing the relationship between a country’s chocolate consumption and Nobel Prize victories is making the rounds on Twitter, perhaps because it’s Easter.
One would assume, when seeing the chart, that it’s one of those jokey correlation charts that you might find on Reddit or something, like the chart comparing homicide to the use of Windows Explorer.
But apparently the chocolate chart isn’t a joke.
The chocolate chart actually comes from a New England Journal Of Medicine paper published in 2012 called: Chocolate Consumption, Cognitive Function, and Nobel Laureates.
The paper isn’t a joke. It was written by Franz H. Messerli, MD. A full ungated version of it can be read here.
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 principal finding of this study is a surprisingly powerful correlation between chocolate intake per capita and the number of Nobel laureates in various countries. Of course, a correlation between X and Y does not prove causation but indicates that either X influences Y, Y influences X, or X and Y are influenced by a common underlying mechanism. However, since chocolate consumption has been documented to improve cognitive function, it seems most likely that in a dose-dependent way, chocolate intake provides the abundant fertile ground needed for the sprouting of Nobel laureates. Obviously, these findings are hypothesis-generating only and will have to be tested in a prospective, randomised trial.
So there you go! Happy Easter! Eat more chocolate!
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