Eat More Chocolate, Win More Nobel Prizes, Study Says

A active compound in chocolate may be more effective than codeine in treating persistent coughs. Kimberly White/Reuters

It doesn't take a genius IQ to love chocolate, but evidently geniuses are more likely to eat large quantities of the dark gold. According to a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine, countries that eat more chocolate produce more Nobel Laureates.

Franz Messerli was inspired by reading a study about flavanols, found in wine and in chocolate, which showed that consumption of the substance increased cognitive performance. Messerli wondered whether that correlation would exist in countries as well, where chocolate consumption would be linked with country-wide cognitive performance. He used Nobel Prizes as a surrogate for cognitive performance.

Messerli examined chocolate consumption per person. Because, by the very nature of the prestigious award, there are so few Laureates, he calculated the number of Nobel prizes per 100,000 people. The relationship between chocolate consumption and Nobel Prizes was even stronger when Messerli removed Sweden from the list.

Evidently, the home of the Nobel Prize is ranked much higher than it should be based on its chocolate consumption. Messerli wrote, "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."

So who's at the top of their class? Switzerland, of course, followed by Sweden and Denmark. The Netherlands and, strangely, France and Belgium fall in the middle of the pack. China and Brazil are at the end. Though the United States has the greatest number of Nobel Laureates of any single country, the U.S. also has the largest population. For that reason, the United States is in the middle of the pack as well.

"I attribute essentially all my success to the very large amount of chocolate that I consume," joked Eric Cornell, an American physicist who received the Nobel Prize in 2001. "Personally I feel that milk chocolate makes you stupid. Now dark chocolate is the way to go. It's one thing if you want like a medicine or chemistry Nobel Prize...but if you want a physics Nobel Prize it pretty much has got to be dark chocolate."

Messerli, who was born in Switzerland and who eats chocolate on a daily basis, stresses that correlation does not equal causation. He also says that the correlation could go in the other direction as well: countries that have higher cognitive performance just tend to eat more chocolate.

Apparently, the average Swiss person eats 120 3-ounce bars of chocolate per year. In order to produce just one more Nobel Laureate, the United States would have to eat 275 million pounds of chocolate per year. So get on it, Americans!

This week, the Nobel Prize Committee is announcing this year's list of winners. The Committe has already awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine to Sir John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka.