As an academic study shows there is a clear sign that chocolate makes us more intelligent. More precisely the study claims that a country where people are more in love with chocolate has more Nobel Prize laureates than countries where the national average of chocolate consumption is lower.
How does chocolate affect the cognitive function?
Dietary flavonoids, one of the compounds of several plants have well-known healing power. Flavonoids are abundant in herbs and other plants that have curative power. Flavanols, a subclass of flavonoids are the “good” components of chocolate beans. Thanks to the flavanols, chocolate, like green tea and red wine, slows down or even reverses the reduction in cognitive performance that occur with age.
Understanding the academic study
“There was a close, significant correlation between chocolate consumption per capita and the number of Nobel laureates per 10 million persons in a total of 23 countries.”
That quoted sentence is from an academic paper published in 2012 in the New England Journal of Medicine which is indeed a serious study. The preliminary idea of the researcher Messerli, M.D. was to support the well-known positive cognitive function related side effect of chocolate. He thought the thesis, that suggests chocolate improves cognitive performance, could hypothetically be applied not only to individuals but also to whole populations. The research question was the following: Is there a correlation between a country’s level of chocolate consumption and its population’s cognitive function? As Messerli did not find any available data on overall national cognitive function, he decided to use the total number of Nobel laureates per capita which can be seen as a measure of the intelligence level of the given nation. We already know the positive answer to the research question.
“Half kilogram of chocolate per capita per year would increase the number of Nobel laureates”
This number was counted from the slope of the regression line which links Switzerland on the top and China on the bottom. The other countries locate more or less close that linear line. It means Swiss people eat the biggest amount of chocolate and the country has the highest number of Nobel laureates per 10 million inhabitants. The countries line up more or less as the regression line predicts except Sweden. Swedish people do not eat enough chocolate to have 32 Nobel laureates; according to their consumption they should have only 14. One of the reasons could be that the Nobel Committee in Stockholm has some Swedish bias or hypothetically Swedish people are more sensitive to chocolate than others.
Avoid wrong interpretations
The given correlation does not indicate anything. The correlation can be understood as a surprising coincidence or more likely it is a result of a complex interrelated set of indicators. Let me say some examples: (1) Countries where traditionally chocolate production and consumption are culturally significant such as Switzerland and Belgium are among the richest countries in the world where the level of education is high for centuries. (2) If chocolate really did matter, the traditional chocolate consumers in Latin America would have been the most awarded nations in the world. Because they make their own chocolate drink from the beans, and therefore eat much more natural thus healthier chocolate than people who only have access to factory-made products. (3) Cognitive functions cannot be simply translated to the Nobel Prize. Even if a person has a very high cognitive level, it does not automatically mean that he or she is a researcher of a science that is awarded by the Nobel Prize.
Even though chocolate naturally contains compounds, that positively affect our health and cognitive function, only by eating more chocolate we won’t be more intelligent. Good quality dark chocolate can be a complementary part of a healthy diet although cannot substitute essential forms of stimulating our brain such as doing art, music, sport and in general being critical and reflective to the information that we receive.
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