Curious studies about snacking: what chocolate has to do with romance novels and mosquitoes

Does chocolate help increase sales of romance novels? Does the chance of getting a Nobel Prize increase if you snack more? Questions that you would probably never have asked yourself.

Curious studies about snacking: what chocolate has to do with romance novels and mosquitoes

Does chocolate help increase sales of romance novels? Does the chance of getting a Nobel Prize increase if you snack more? Questions that you would probably never have asked yourself. However, research has answers.

Every German eats around nine kilograms of chocolate every year. And there are sweet tooths in research too. Chocolate is therefore not a rare subject of scientific research. Some of these are pretty amazing. For International Chocolate Day this Tuesday, it's worth taking a look at the entertaining side of confectionery research. Although the origin of the commemoration is unknown, it probably refers to the birthday of the legendary US candy manufacturer Milton S. Hershey.

How long does it take to empty a freely available box of chocolates? Doctors in Great Britain investigated this question, considering two brands. "Gifts from patients and their families account for the majority of chocolate consumption by healthcare workers," the doctors write. For their small study presented in 2013, they laid out two boxes of chocolates on four wards in different clinics and observed how they were emptied.

According to the analysis by the team led by doctor Parag Gajendragadkar, it took an average of twelve minutes for a box to be opened after it appeared. At first, the staff got there quickly, later a "constant consumption that slowed down over time" was observed. After around one and a half hours, half of a box was emptied on average. There was even confectionery left at the end - it wasn't told what kind.

Some cannot resist the smell of old books. Others, on the other hand, are apparently seduced by the aroma of the finest sweets. At least, a 2013 study in chocolate nation Belgium found that the smell of chocolate can boost book sales—especially romance literature.

The team led by researcher Lieve Doucé made observations in a bookstore chain for ten days and found that customers rummaged through books more than twice as often when they smelled chocolate and searched less specifically for titles. 40 percent more romance novels and cookbooks were sold.

A meta-study presented in 2021 also showed that smells influence shopping. In examining 20 individual studies - including the Belgian one - the Danish and Polish scientists came to the conclusion that a pleasant scent generally has a positive effect. There is a stronger bond with the business and higher customer satisfaction. An influence on actual purchasing behavior could not be clearly demonstrated in all of the studies examined.

It is not that easy. And yet the thesis in the world is that the number of Nobel Prize winners increases with the consumption of chocolate in a nation. In 2012, the Swiss doctor Franz Messerli put possible connections up for debate in a - very tongue-in-cheek - article: "It would take about 0.4 kilograms of chocolate per capita and year to increase the number of Nobel Prize winners in a certain country by 1." At the time, the front runners in both were, of course, the Swiss.

Some researchers are tearing up Messerli's hypothesis ("one of the strangest and most bizarre papers I've seen in a long time"). In addition to their criticism of the experimental setup, others come to the conclusion that the spread of Ikea furniture stores can also be linked to the number of Nobel prizes. Because apparently a third variable is relevant: the standard of living. This can affect both the consumption of stimulants and the level of scientific research. Ultimately, the following applies here: correlation does not automatically mean causality.

What do mosquitoes have to do with chocolate? More than you would think. Because without mosquitoes there would be less chocolate. Mosquitoes and midges, for example in Indonesia, do important pollination work. This is what Yann Clough, professor of environmental sciences at the University of Lund in Sweden, found out: "These mosquitoes are small enough to get at the small blossoms of the cocoa and there they transfer the pollen from other cocoa trees. This leads to cross-pollination and a cocoa fruit forms."

A study presented in 2017 dealt with an annually recurring phenomenon. "Traumatic amputations of candy rabbit ears appear to be seasonal and related to Easter," a Detroit-based research team said in a paper. An examination of images and texts from the past five years on the Internet has shown that the number of such injuries to chocolate bunnies rose sharply between the end of March and mid-April.

"The most common offenders seem to be people of all ages," writes the team led by ENT doctor Kathleen Yaremchuk in their tongue-in-cheek essay. The reason for the increase in cases is the strong growth in the chocolate bunny population in spring and the resulting increased contact with humans. It is not advisable to try to reconstruct the missing spoons: "Because the rest of the rabbit often soon suffers a similar fate."

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