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Beryl Lieff Benderly

The Sweetest Way to Improve Your Nobel Chances?

Winning the Nobel Prize must be a very sweet experience.  But the connection between sweetness and science’s highest accolade is closer than that, according to an (apparently serious) note in the  New England Journal of Medicine that found a “powerful correlation” between the number of Nobel Prizes a country wins and how much chocolate its people eat.  Does this suggest a new strategy for ambitious researchers hoping for that fabled call from Stockholm?

Switzerland, home of some of the world’s most delectable confections, scored highest out of the 23 countries examined in the study in both “chocolate consumption per capita and and the number of Nobel laureates her 10 million people,” writes physician Frank Messerli.  Sweden, however, bucked the trend in Messerli’s data by producing almost 50 percent more Nobelists than its people’s taste for cocoa products would have predicted. Masserli suggests that “an inherent patriotic bias” among the Stockholm-based committee that chooses the laureates or a special sensitivity to chocolate among the country’s inhabitants may account for the country”s “outlier” status.

“Chocolate has been documented to increase cognitive function,” Messerli wrote, by way of explaining the hitherto unnoticed connection.  He acknowledged, however, that “The cumulative dose of chocolate that is needed to sufficiently increase the odds of being asked to travel to Stockholm is uncertain.” 

News of Messerli’s finding caused Sven Lidin, who chairs the Nobel committee on chemistry, to laugh so much “that he could barely comment,” reports the  Associated Press  (AP).  Lidin did, however, manage to state that doesn’t “think there is any direct cause and effect,” the AP continues.

Even so, boosting one’s consumption of the delicious sweet not only is pleasant but can’t do any harm, and may, as Messerli notes, also lower one’s blood pressure–especially, I suspect, as one waits for the call from those men with the fluty accents.  It may even provide consolation when the call doesn’t come.