Eating chocolate has long been said to improve any sorrow-filled situation. Discovered in both Central and South America, the cacao tree made its presence known to Christopher Columbus in 1502. Columbus' brother Ferdinand described the rare cacao beans as almonds. Columbus reportedly brought the beans back with him to Spain, where they were overlooked by Spanish royalty until Cortez returned some twenty years later with the same beans after his voyage to the Americas.
Chocolate contains a caffeine-like stimulant called theobromine, as well as a compound called anandamide that can produce similar (though much less profound) results to marijuana, as the compound binds with the same receptors as marijuana's psychoactive units. According to a study performed by the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, these particles may cause those hard-to-place feelings of happiness and contentment. Anandamide is also naturally found in the brain. Other chemicals may stop the breakdown of anandamide, producing a longer feeling of joy after eating a bit of chocolate. Another chemical present in chocolate, phenylethylamine, may produce similar emotions after consumption; this stimulant helps heighten activity found in the brain's chemicals.
Many research studies have proven that eating chocolate can be beneficial for most people. Dr. Norman K. Hollenberg of Harvard Medical School looked at the relationship between chocolate consumption and nitric oxide production. Those who consumed a certain cocoa with more antioxidant properties than another type of cocoa experienced an increase in nitric oxide activity; nitric oxide helps provide maintenance of blood pressure. Another study, produced by Kevin Chan, M.D., M.P.H. of Toronto Ontario, was given the name "Chocolate Happiness Undergoing More Pleasantness" or CHUMP. Participants were separated into three groups: some ate milk chocolate, some ate dark chocolate, and some maintained a normal consumption of chocolate--in other words, were given no chocolate during the study. Though the study was riddled with problems, Chan concluded that results showed that the groups who were in either of the two chocolate groups were more likely to be happy than the group who did not consume chocolate.