Milk does a mind good?

Nations That Consume a Lot of Milk Also Win a Lot of Nobel Prizes

Nations that consume a lot of milk and milk products also tend to have a lot of Nobel laureates among their populations, suggest the authors of a letter, published in Practical Neurology.

Research published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine reported a strong association between a nation’s chocolate consumption and Nobel laureate prowess, speculating that the flavonoid content of chocolate was behind the boost in brain power.

This got the letter authors thinking. As chocolate is often combined with milk, could it be the amount of milk/milk products consumed per head that fuels Nobel Prize success?

They looked at the 2007 data from the Food and Agriculture Organization on per capita milk consumption in 22 countries as well as the information provided by the author of the chocolate theory, and found a significant association.

Sweden has the most Nobel laureates per 10 million of its population (33). Although, it hosts the Nobel committee, which some might argue could introduce an element of bias; it also consumes the most milk per head of the population, getting through 340kg every year.

And Switzerland, which knocks back 300kg of the white stuff every year, has a Nobel haul of similar proportions (32).

At the other end of the scale, China has the lowest number of Nobel laureates in its population. But it also has the lowest milk consumption of the countries studied — at around 25kg a year.

There does seem to be a ceiling effect, however, note the authors, with no discernible impact beyond an annual per capita consumption of 350kg, as Finland’s Nobel haul seems to attest.

Is milk consumption therefore simply a reflection of a strong educational system, or do Nobel Prize winners celebrate by drinking it, query the authors?

But there is a plausible biological explanation for the link: milk is rich in vitamin D, and this may boost brain power, the evidence suggests.

“So to improve your chances of winning Nobel prizes you should not only eat more chocolate but perhaps drink milk too: or strive for synergy with hot chocolate,” conclude the authors, who highlight their conflicts of interest, which include a tendency to take milk with cereal and coffee, and to eat chocolate whenever the opportunity arises.


Leave a Comment:

Jer says May 27, 2015

A question on milk. Does milk “neutralise” or reduce the benefits of good foods if ingested at or around the same time? If I were to drink milk with a zinc or magnesium tablet, would the combination produce an inert biproduct? I seem to remember reading about the “dangers” of milk in this context.


    P. D. Mangan says May 27, 2015

    I don’t think so. Milk neutralizes a few things, like thyroid hormone I believe (which I take) but I don’t think it will affect zinc or magnesium or anything else that I can think of at the moment. Phytates from cereal grains are more of a danger in that regard; for instance, zinc deficiency was discovered in the Middle East, a culture characterized by super high amounts of bread eating.

      Jer says May 27, 2015

      Thanks PD. Very useful to know that.

      I’m not a scientist or evoluntary biologist (if there is a distinction between the two) but I do find it strange that so much food which farmers grow (aka, grains) are bad or, politely, suboptimal, for the body given that “we” have been agrarian for circa [8] thousand years. you’d think we’d have adapted…didn’t Europeans do that with mild? …but I realise that nothing is obvious with evolution and that evolution does not necessarily mean fitter, stronger, faster, smarter and that odd unfortunate genes can persist notwithstanding that they bring no obvious benefit because it’s all down to The Game of Who Survives. So, grains and bread….you’re tasty, a great invention, filling and cheap, but you’re ahead of your time (for me, anyway – PD – query whether some populations are more advanced in the bread-digestion genetic field? A research task for you – memo please! just joking…got to be careful who I joke with these days!).

      thanks for sharing your knowledge on an arcane bit of Middle East food history.


        P. D. Mangan says May 27, 2015

        The question whether we’re adapted to agricultural products like grains is a good one. 8,000 years isn’t really a long time when we’re talking about our entire physiology – certain individual genes can easily change in that time frame though. The way I prefer to look at it is not in terms of adaptation but on what is healthy. I think grains have a number of unhealthy aspects to them, though some people may do just fine on them. I actually have anti-gluten antibodies in my blood, which indicates to me that I shouldn’t be eating gluten.

Jer says May 27, 2015

*milk – in the 5th line of second paragraph

this post has been issued in accordance with internet spelling protocol

Jer says May 27, 2015

more thoughts on milk and the above post.

the jocular conclusion hints at the idea that everyone should be downing milk on a daily basis and scoffing chocolate…but could it be that the Amazing Power of Milk will only benefit certain people and will be as useful as drinking liquefied lard for other people. Swedes may drink milk because their (yet to be identified) “Nobel Laureate Enscripting Factor” genes compel them to. Without that gene, there is no point drinking milk. I’m not sure the Chinese govt should begin a campaign to enforce milk drinking and choco eating…though that would be very useful research and would prove whether the Swedes actual do have Nobel Laureate genes or whether it is purely milk related. I’m prob just re-working the esteemed authors’ conclusion from the article.

duderino says May 28, 2015

I read that lactose intolerance evolved after cultures from the fertile crescent migrated to Northern Europe. Their old crops failed, forcing them to drink milk in famine. So those who didn’t die of starvation/dysentery are a recently evolved stock. Not only that, it is believed that only one in 17 men from the Fertile Crescent reproduced in the first place. (Successful farmers) So its not hard to believe that Northern Europeans are a recently evolved stock that has a type of intelligence that leads to nobel prizes.

But I’m biased. I can’t drink milk and don’t want it to cause intelligence.

    P. D. Mangan says May 28, 2015

    Actually, it would only take a small advantage for the spread of lactose tolerance. There’s only 1 gene involved, and it merely means keeping it switched on into adulthood. If lactose tolerant people had only 10% more children than others, the gene would quickly spread in the population. “Sweep”, as they say.

Add Your Reply