In a study that is certain to have chocoholics worldwide convinced that eating chocolate is tied to brain power, researchers from the Wellcome Trust and the Kings College of London recently reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that there is a correlation between the number of Nobel Laureates that come from a country and the amount of chocolate that the country’s population consumes.
Though the headline is enough to bring joy to students seeking chocolate inspiration as they cram for their midterms, the sad truth is that the link has less to do with brain health or I.Q. than it does with the overall economy of the nations where the prize winners are being educated and doing their research. Turns out that though the New England Journal of Medicine’s study is correct, the correlation is indirect, and rather than pointing to chocolate making you smarter it actually proves that the world’s wealthiest nations eat more chocolate – an average of 120 three-ounce bars per year in Switzerland, the nation with the most Nobel prize winners Wealthy nations with strong economy value education, and that means that more money gets directed to scientific research.
The letdown I felt once I read the smart interpretation (rather than the delicious one) of the study was enough to make me reach for chocolate consolation until I came upon a few more bits of research that made me feel ever so much better. The Department of Nutrition at the University of Oslo in Norway has just completed a study that showed a direct correlation between the consumption of chocolate and higher scores on a cognitive test in a group of 2,000 septuagenarians who were asked about their eating habits. And another recent study showed that people who were given a cup of hot chocolate just before being asked to do a mental math problem had a much easier time with the task. What’s the reason? Flavanoids, the magical ingredient found in many fruits and vegetables but also present in chocolate, particularly natural cocoa powder and unsweetened baking chocolate. Of course, eating either of those is not quite as enjoyable as the chocolate that ranks third on the flavonoid hit parade – dark chocolate.
I’ve always known that smart people eat chocolate, but it is comforting to learn that the relationship between chocolate and intelligence goes both ways – eating chocolate makes you smarter too!