Centuries ago, Spanish ladies in the New World were so enamored with hot chocolate, they sometimes had it brought to them in church, according to the 19th-century gourmet Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. Today Americans continue to feed their addictions: In 2000, total U.S. chocolate consumption rose to 3.3 billion pounds, up almost 7 percent from 3.1 billion pounds in 1996, according to the National Confectioners Association. Talk about a sweet tooth. That's almost 12 pounds for every man, woman and child in the U.S.
So where do these cocoa cravings come from? Scientists believe that certain psychoactive substances in chocolate can diminish anxiety and help boost a person's sense of well-being.