A link between chocolate and the Nobel Prize, really?

According to an article published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, the higher a country';s chocolate consumption, the higher its odds of spawning Nobel Prize winners!

According to an article published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, the higher a country';s chocolate consumption, the higher its odds of spawning Nobel Prize winners!

Over the past few years, several studies have suggested that dietary flavonoids, which are plentiful in plants, may have a beneficial effect on cognitive function, including a reduced risk of dementia and improved performance on certain tests. Flavanols, a sub-class of flavonoids found in cocoa, green tea, red wine and certain fruits, may help slow the progression of age-related cognitive decline.

A cardiologist who had been asked to evaluate an article on the effects of flavanols had some fun establishing a link between a country’s chocolate consumption and its number of Nobel Prize winners. To his great surprise, his analysis revealed a strong correlation between chocolate consumption per capita and the number of Nobel laureates per 10,000 inhabitants! According to his calculations, the higher a country';s chocolate consumption, the more Nobel Prize recipients it has per capita.

Although the Swiss eat the most chocolate per inhabitant, they rank second – behind Sweden – in terms of Nobel Prize winners. The cardiologist feels that discrepancy is due to the Nobel committee’s favouritism towards its own country.

As you can tell, this “study” isn’t very serious. However, if we look at the cardiologist’s data from a purely scientific standpoint, there is no doubt that there is a strong correlation between chocolate consumption and a country’s odds of producing Nobel laureates. We must never forget, however, that a statistical link – even a strong one – between two elements does not necessarily mean there is a cause-and-effect relationship involved, as other factors may be at work. In this particular case, since chocolate is a luxury item, the countries that consume a lot of it are probably “rich” countries. This wealth is also likely to benefit the health of its citizens, provide a quality education and give them access to cutting-edge research facilities. The cardiologist didn’t include these other factors in his study, however. As a result, while there is an undeniable link between chocolate and Nobel Prize winners, no serious conclusions can be drawn from his analysis.

While wanting to have a little bit of fun, the cardiologist in fact showed the importance of not believing everything we read in newspapers and scientific journals!

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