Most reporting on this recent scientific finding had a fun spin, for obvious reasons. But was it Ig-worthy work? While only subscribers to the New England Journal of Medicine can access the study directly, the most serious review (and the most entertaining illustration) of its significance is here:
In the study, Messerli explains:
“It seems most likely that in a dose-dependent way, chocolate intake provides the abundant fertile ground needed for the sprouting of Nobel laureates.
Obviously, these findings are hypothesis-generating only and will have to be tested in a prospective, randomized trial.”
The good doctor lays out an elaborate mechanism of how this delicious connection could play out. In Time:
“[C]ocoa contains flavanols, plant-based compounds that previous studies have linked to the slowing or reversing of age-related cognitive decline.”
Hence, the idea goes, eating more chocolate means less cognitive decline, means more Nobel laureates. There is only one hitch. If it wasn’t clear yet, Messerli is just joking around. Says Frederick Joelving for Reuters, “Messerli said the whole idea is absurd, although the data are legitimate and contain a few lessons about the fallibility of science.”
The reason Messerli published his choco-Nobel connection, says Popular Science, was to make a bigger point about medical research in general.
The correlation here is false, of course, and that’s precisely why the study was published. New York physician Franz Messerli noticed the correlation and published the study to show how p-values–a statistical tool that nearly all medical studies employ to prove the veracity of the causal relationships they describe–can be seriously flawed.