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Barbajada (coffee, milk and chocolate): the secret to the Nobel Prize
  1. Francesco Brigo1,2,
  2. Raffaele Nardone2,3
  1. 1Section of Clinical Neurology, Department of Neurological and Movement Sciences, University of Verona, Verona, Italy
  2. 2Department of Neurology, Franz Tappeiner Hospital, Merano, Italy
  3. 3Department of Neurology, Christian Doppler Klinik, Paracelsus Medical University, Salzburg, Austria
  1. Correspondence to : Dr Francesco Brigo
    Section of Clinical Neurology Department of Neurological and Movement Sciences, University of Verona, Piazzale L.A. Scuro, Verona 10-37134, Italy; dr.francescobrigo{at}

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Is there any food that may be useful in enhancing intelligence? Recently, a strong correlation was found between national chocolate consumption and the number of Nobel Prizes a country has won.1 Taken seriously, this result suffers from a great deal of ecological bias, but it is nevertheless a convenient excuse for eating more chocolate. Interestingly, the same strong correlation was later found for milk consumption.2

However, unlike chocolate and milk, caffeine is commonly consumed in an effort to enhance cognitive performance. Hence, we aimed to evaluate whether coffee consumption also correlates positively with cognitive function. We therefore used data on Current Worldwide Annual Coffee Consumption per capita ( and data on Nobel Prizes won by countries worldwide.1 We found a significant linear correlation (r2=0.508; p<0.0001) between coffee consumption per capita (in 2008) and Nobel Prizes per capita. Surprisingly, the association we found had a strength of the same order as that found for chocolate (r2=0.625).

The strong correlation is prone to the same biases and caveats which apply to the correlation with chocolate and milk consumption. However, caffeine consumption has been demonstrated to be inversely associated with cognitive decline in elderly men3 probably because of its beneficial effects on working memory4 and has even been suggested as a possible treatment in cases of established Alzheimer’s disease.5

The secret to winning the Nobel Prize is now definitely demonstrated: the Barbajada, an Italian mixture of coffee, milk and chocolate. Perhaps it is no co-incidence that the genial Italian musician Gioacchino Rossini went into raptures about it!


This article is dedicated to the memory of the Italian conductor Claudio Abbado (1933–2014).



  • Contributors FB designed, drafted and wrote the final manuscript. FB performed the statistical analyses. RN critically revised the manuscript.

  • Competing interests None.