As I begin this newsletter I imagine our American readers -- and not a few people in other countries -- glued to their TV screens as Joe Biden and Paul Ryan face off in the great vice-presidential pre-election debate. I just listened to a couple of minutes but, what with Iran and healthcare and unemployment, I can see that they are just not going to get around to the subject that really is the key to a bright future: chocolate.
Yep, chocolate. And here’s why. We know it is brains rather than brawn that power the world these days. And a sure-fire way of knowing a country’s collective brainpower is to count the number of Nobel Prize winners it has. The difficult bit is pinpointing exactly what made those guys so brainy. Well, American medical professor Franz Messerli has cracked the code.
Following up research that showed flavanols in green tea, red wine and, yes, chocolate, can counteract age-related mental decline, he measured national chocolate consumption against the number of Nobel Prizes. And, voila! There was “a surprisingly powerful correlation” which put chocoholic Switzerland at the top, and China, Japan and Brazil at the bottom.
As an aside, I’m sad and a little puzzled to hear about Brazil because Brazil nut chocolate was my favourite growing up, and I’m sure it helped me win a Thrift Essay prize a couple of times. I feel they deserve a Nobel even if only for providing the nuts.
But that’s not the only mystery. Swedes, apparently have won far more Nobels than their consumption of chocolate warrants -- 32 instead of 14. Dr Messerli suggests that may be due to patriotic bias, or to Swedes being so sensitive to the effects of chocolate that “even miniscule amounts greatly enhance their cognition”!
OK, so this is a spoof from the Onion - right? Wrong. It’s a realio trulio study “noted” in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, for which Dr M was able to get funding and on which he spent some of his valuable time. On the surface the study did show a correlation, but it only took a glance at Sweden to blow a hole in it -- scrutiny that was more likely simply because, much as we’d like it to be true, the thesis was so unlikely.
But there are convincing looking studies about far more serious matters -- same-sex parenting, for example -- where people’s natural scepticism has been so rebuffed and repressed that obvious questions are not even asked. They are taboo. Unless, of course, the findings contradict the politically dominant view, in which case the study will be rigorously scrutinised and its author’s credentials examined in minute detail with a view to drumming him out of his profession. As we have seen lately. Reception of the chocolate study (deep scepticism) should be the rule for all studies which offend common sense.
We have a variety of new articles this end of the week. Denyse O’Leary reviews a movie that “tanked” at the box office but deserves to be seen, she says. Robert Reilly asks why Muslims, so quick to react against insults to their faith, never apologise for similar transgressions on their own part. Alana S. Newman makes a case against some “new sexual predators” -- older women and gay men who want women’s “eggs and wombs”. George Friedman’s article is about US foreign policy (a hot topic in the vice-presidential debate) against the background of Syria.
And - especially important for folks Down Under -- Australian MP Kevin Andrews introduces his new book, Maybe 'I Do', which charts the impact of family structure on the health, happiness and well-being of adults, children and society.