The Cabinet Office reported to a panel of experts on March 8 that it will redo experiments about the neurological restorative properties of chocolate after it has been pointed out that the research lacks credibility due to insufficient data.
After the announcement that the research would be redone, Yoshinori Yamakawa, who conducted the study with food manufacturing giant Meiji Co. and the support of the Cabinet Office, said at a press conference, "We presented the results at the preliminary stage and are reflecting on our actions. We will work hard to gather stronger evidence."
In January 2017, Yamakawa and his research team had a total of 30 male and female subjects between the ages of 45 and 68 eat chocolate containing a high percentage of cacao for four weeks and then announced that "there is a possibility of age-reversing properties for the brain." However, the study lacked a control group that did not eat the chocolate for comparison, and the subject pool was extremely small, along with other problems, prompting criticism from other researchers that the study lacked the scientific backing for its claims.
The Cabinet Office's report also stated, "The preparation of the presentation materials was left up to Meiji, and there was a lack of confirmation."
The chocolate study was one of many neuroscience research projects presided over by Yamakawa that have been designated as part of the Cabinet Office's Impulsing Paradigm Change through Disruptive Technologies Program (ImPACT). The Cabinet Office has decided to provide a total of roughly 3 billion yen in research grants to his research projects for a five year period from the 2014 fiscal year.
It was disclosed at an expert panel in May 2017 that the content of the research was set to be verified. The Cabinet Office has since decided that research that might have a wide impact on society be reviewed by an external group of experts before any announcement to remove any room for criticism.
This is not the first time research funded by ImPACT has been put under the spotlight. In response to the National Institute of Informatics and other research organizations announcing the development of the world's largest quantum neural network computer made domestically, many pointed out that the computing system could not really be called a quantum neural network.