A foil-wrapped Nobel Prize chocolate
Chocolate: The food of Nobelity
The health benefits of chocolate are widely touted. It’s supposed to be good for cardiovascular health: lowering blood pressure, cholesterol levels and stroke risk, for example, while also boosting physical stamina and cognitive function.
If it’s smart to eat chocolate, does it follow that smart people eat more of it?
That’s the question (sort of) that Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, posed to nearly two dozen Nobel Prize winners. Golomb and her coauthors – including 11 Nobel laureates – reported their findings in a letter published today in the journal Nature.
They started by taking note of a study, published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine, which compared chocolate consumption by different nations with the number of Nobel laureates produced.
Study author Franz H. Messerli, MD, of Columbia University found that countries with the highest annual per capita chocolate consumption, such as Switzerland and Sweden, produced more Nobel laureates per 10 million population than comparatively chocolate-deprived nations like China and Brazil. But this says nothing of the chocolate-consuming habits of Nobelists themselves.
Golomb, whose previous scholarly work has reported that regular chocolate consumption may be associated with a lower body mass, wondered whether Nobelists themselves ate more chocolate than ordinary folk, and how that consumption might have contributed to their scientific success. She surveyed 23 male Nobel laureates in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine and economics. Given chocolate’s mood associations, Nobelists in peace and literature were excluded.
The findings, short and sweet: More Nobelists report eating chocolate somewhat or much more than their overall age-sex matched cohort during the years of their Nobel-winning work versus somewhat or much less chocolate. Twice as many reported eating more chocolate compared to less chocolate than a chief competitor. Forty-two percent reported eating chocolate more than twice a week, compared to less than 25 percent of an available age-similar-educated-male-comparison group.
Most Nobelists acknowledged no relationship between their chocolate consumption and their Prize. “My wife is crazy about chocolate and eats it almost every day, but so far she has not received the phone call,” opined one laureate.
A few prizewinners (tongues and chocolate firmly in cheek) did credit chocolate as partly or wholly responsible for their scientific achievement. “Chocolate made me who I am today,” said one unnamed laureate in chemistry.
Who can argue with that?
Or with this fact:
At the annual Nobel ceremony in Stockholm, laureates are given chocolate replicas of the medal wrapped in gold foil.
“This must mean that the Nobel Foundation thinks chocolate is important,” concluded one winner.