February 3, 2013
John DiTraglia MD
In a recent New England Journal of Medicine, right after an interesting research review that shows how the body reacts on the cellular level, in the intestine, to restriction of calories,(1) there is an even more interesting project that seems to support the widespread contention that eating chocolate makes you smarter. (2) Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, has flavonoids that have been shown in different models to improve brain power. Flavonoids, from the Latin flavus meaning yellow, are found in almost all plants and contribute to color in flowers, fruits and vegetables.
Dr. Messerli, from St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital and Columbia University in New York, who reports that he eats chocolate everyday, thought of trying to correlate the number of Nobel laureates, as a measure of population smarts, for 22 different countries, with their per capita consumption of Chocolate. Nobel laureates per 10 million population, when plotted against chocolate consumption in kg/yr/capita, draws an amazingly straight line. That is the correlation is surprisingly powerful. Sweden is an outlier, with about the same chocolate consumption as the United States but almost thirty times the number of Nobel Laureates per 10 million population but we can all figure that that is biased since the Nobel Prizes are awarded by Swedish scholarly academies. If you throw out Sweden then the correlation is even stronger between chocolate consumed and Nobel prizes awarded.
Chocolate also usually has lots of milk and sugar and fats and calories, because flavonoids are actually kind of bitter. But maybe someday a chocolate eater will figure out what to do about obesity.
1. Clevers H. The Paneth cell, caloric restriction, and intestinal integrity. N Engl J Med 2012;367:1560-1.
2. Messerli FH. Chocolate consumption, cognitive function and Nobel laureates N Engl J Med 2012;367:1562-4.