Wednesday, February 13, 2013

WHAT MAKES A NOBEL LAUREATE? BRAIN OR FOOD?

Is there a relationship between between the brain power and attainment of excellence in life? Common senses does indicate that man endowed with superior intelligence has conquered the world and to day homo sapiens rule supreme, at least in planet called Mother Earth. To establish any such relationship one has to define what is excellence and how it can be quantified. Once human beings are recognized as supremely intelligent creatures there must be degree of excellence by which there can be differentiation among them. Can winning a Nobel prize be considered the ultimate in one's life achievement? Nobel prize is given in practically every branch of human endeavor and there fore can be a comparative scale for determining excellence.

Some time back there was a claim that Nobel prize winners invariably come from countries where chocolate consumption is high! Statistically analyzed the study referred above does reflect this fact. Looked from the perspectives of a food scientist or a nutritionist, probably this phenomenon can be explained by the fact that chocolate is one of the richest sources of Flavonoids which are endowed with high levels of antioxidant activity. Heath of human beings in general is directly related to the extent of inflammation at cellular level and resultant generation of oxyradicals adversely affecting the DNA metabolism. Flavonoids and similar antioxidants are supposed to neutralize these highly destructive oxyradicals as and when they are generated. Probably this may be a far-fetched theory but still plausible.

Following the chocolate report in comes another claim that Milk consumption has some thing to do with the ability of human beings to reach pinnacle of their career! Here again the science of statistics has contributed to this "discovery". According to the authors of above "study" Sweden has the highest number of Nobel laureates, about 33 per 10 million since its inception and their per capita milk consumption is estimated to be about 330 kg per year! This country is closely followed by Switzerland, that tiny country with 32 Nobel prizes per 10 million population with milk products consumption to the extent of 300 kg per person per year. A major deviation is Finland with the highest milk consumption, 350 kg per capita,  which has insignificant number of Nobel laureates!. Probably 300 kg per capita annual consumption may be the cut off point beyond which the "Milk effect" does not work! China, the second most powerful economic power in the world is not an admirer of milk with hardly 25 kg per year per person and it has only an insignificant number of winners of Nobel prize, about 9 in number for a population of 1.3 billion plus!. Same is true with India also, with hardly 8 Nobel prizes for its population of 1.2 billion.  

What could be the connection, if at all there is any, between milk and excellence of achievement? Viewed from a nutrition angle, it is very difficult to justify such a correlation though milk is often considered as a complete food containing almost all critical nutrients required for development of body as well as the brain. The theory that it is rich in vitamin D that aids brain development cannot be taken at its face value because people in many tropical countries make abundant Vitamin D through their exposure to sun. Could the affordability play a part in enabling the people from rich countries consuming high quantum of milk and milk products and if so Nobel laureates can come only from such countries.

Are the people from poor countries destined to be inferior human beings perpetually? Their could be another angle which could explain the milk effect and that is not related to milk but to the education standards and infrastructure available in these rich countries. Naturally a good education can definitely enrich the mind and the brain leading to achievement of excellence in whatever field one chooses. There are many bright and intelligent youngsters in countries like India with the right caliber to become Nobel laureates but the poor infrastructure for education and unimaginative policies that prevail here, there is very little scope for expressing their innate talents. Why is that except for a Sir C V Raman or a Tagore who won the Nobel prize working in India, all other winners were people of Indian origin achieving the excellence working in other countries?  

While per capita milk consumption is used for comparison in the above study, the major flaw is that there can be enormous variation among the population with some consuming high amounts of milk while poorer segment must be taking abysmally low quantities. Take the example of India, the top producer of milk in the world where average milk consumption is just about 100 kg per person per year but in the state Punjab it is almost 360 kg per year per person! Does it mean that future Nobel laureates are going to emerge from this state while others have no chance? Statistical correlations have a meaning up to a point but it need not be the absolute truth! Ultimately for excellence in achievement, it 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration! While in science and other finite subjects infrastructure for research has to be of very high order, in social sciences creativity, imagination, deep thinking, philosophy and a fertile brain may play a crucial role.

V.H.POTTY
http://vhpotty.blogspot.com/
http://foodtechupdates.blogspot.com

1 comment:

biotech said...

truly said sir. sometimes the research claims are absurd