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Randi Hutter Epstein, MD, MPH Headshot

Why Chocolate Makes You Smarter: It's Proven!

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I am fairly certain that recently -- sometime in the past year or so -- I read a study that showed that people believe studies that confirm their suspicions and find faults in studies that poke holes in our assumptions. So here's a study that I think has to be true, even if the author wrote it a bit facetiously: According to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine, if you eat a lot of chocolate, you up your chances of getting a Nobel Prize. The point is that chocolate makes you smarter. (Unless you are going for the Nobel Peace prize, and then chocolate makes you nicer.)

According to the findings of Dr. Franz H. Messerli, cardiologist and director of Clinical Hypertension with St. Luke's and Roosevelt Hospital, "There was a close significant linear correlation (r=0.791, P=0.0001) between chocolate consumption per capita and the number of Nobel Laureates per 10 million persons in a total of 23 countries."

His study is brilliant. Given the assumption that chocolate has a flavonoids and the fact that flavonoids have been tentatively linked to increased brain functioning (it's a substance also found in red wine and fruit, but do we really need another fruit-is-good-for-you study?), he compared national chocolate consumption with the number of Nobel Laureates per capital and found a direct correlation between the amount of chocolate, measured in kilograms, and the number of laureates, measured in people per 10 million population.

We all know that correlation means X is linked to Y, and that it does not necessarily prove that one thing causes the other. Whatever.

In any event, Sweden was an outlier. "Given its per capita consumption of 6.4 kg per year, we would predict that Sweden should have produced a total of 14 Nobel Laureates, yet we observe 32." Messerli suspects one of two things: 1) bias on the part of the judges, who are based in Sweden; or 2) Swedes are hypersensitive to the cognitive-enhancing aspects of chocolate. (I would go with the latter... something to do with the chocolate receptors on their brain neurons.) Messerli adds that as the "research is evolving," the cumulative dose of chocolate needed to sufficiently up your odds of getting the Nobel is not yet known. Stay tuned. I'm waiting for a savvy statistician to correlate martini drinking with intelligence, or at least with happiness.

Get started now: Try this one-bowl brownie recipe (smart dosage not included).

This is my daughter Eliza being force-fed whipped cream with brain-boosting chocolate (you can't start too early):

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