Hands off - Christmas chocolate survives for just 51 minutes on hospital wards

Sweet-toothed medical workers are quick to delve into boxes of chocolates

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The Independent Online

The life-expectancy of chocolates in a hospital is a short one - at least according to results of a new study which found that a chocolate placed near sweet-toothed medical workers would last just 51 minutes on average.

A UK based study looking at chocolate consumption among hospital staff found chocolate only lasts for just under an hour before being eaten, with health care assistants and nurses being the most likely to delve into the nearest box of Quality Streets or Roses.

To conduct the experiment, the authors covertly placed two 350 g boxes of Quality Street and Roses chocolates on each ward (eight boxes containing a total of 258 individual chocolates). These boxes were kept under constant surveillance, with the time recorded when each chocolate was eaten.

The study was conducted across four wards in three hospitals: Bedford Hospital in Bedford, The Great Western Hospital in Swindon and the University Hospital of North Staffordshire in Stoke. 

Lead author Parag R Gajendragadkar, a cardiology specialist registrar at Bedford Hospital said eating chocolate was a common experience in hospital settings, particularly as boxes are often given as gifts from patients and their families.

Dr Gajendragadkar and his team observed each ward for four to six hours, measuring the median survival time of a chocolate before it was eaten. Nearly 75 per cent of the chocolates (191) were observed being eaten, and the mean time taken to open a box of chocolates from when it first appeared on the ward was just 12 minutes.

Speaking to The Independent, he said: "One of the interesting findings from this study was the way the chocolates were eaten. As soon as boxes were opened the rate of consumption was really high at the start, but gradually slowed down later on when unpopular chocolates are left at the end. We actually managed to work out a mathematical formulae for this."

The team also noted Roses were preferred over Quality Streets in a ward setting, apart from the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, the only hospital observed in the north of England.

Staff at each hospital have now been informed about the experiment and are waiting to find out if their ward was observed in the study.

The authors concluded: “Chocolate survival in a hospital ward was relatively short, and was modelled well by an exponential decay model.

“Overall, ward chocolate consumers preferred Roses chocolates compared with Quality Street chocolates. Taken as a group, healthcare assistants and nurses were the largest consumers of chocolate.”

The study has been published in the British Medical Journal's Christmas edition.