AFTER years of quiet investigation, a top-level multi-disciplinary research group, the Commission on Historical and Orthogenic Confirmation of Outstanding Life Achievement Traits (CHOCOLAT), has completed its report--and labeled it Top Secret. But the public's right to know has melted the resolve of a few concerned members, and thus the report has leaked into the hands of this newspaper. We have been able to verify all the facts below--everything, that is, but the existence of the commission itself. SUMMARY REPORT OF THE COMMISSION ON HISTORICAL AND ORTHOGENIC CONFIRMATION OF OUTSTANDING LIFE ACHIEVEMENT TRAITS (Top Secret) Assignment

The examination of history and contemporary society to isolate factors that correlate with high achievement. Purpose

To covertly build a superior populace through enhancement of those factors. This obviously could have significant impact on the well-being and security of American society. Findings

The evidence is clear and incontrovertible. Successful people love chocolate. Methodology

The sociologists and political scientists were the last to recognize the interaction between chocolate consumption and achievement. But in their fields, hard-and-fast conclusions are notoriously rare. Besides, the evidence was elusive. They started their investigation in the upper reaches of government. Jeane Kirkpatrick's office denied her addiction, but her chocolate cake recipe is part of the public record, having been published in major newspapers. Jody Powell would not verify the pattern for any of the Carter administration, though he confessed to regularly curing writer's block himself with three Reese's peanut butter cups. Nancy Reynolds, confidante of the First Family, fortunately becomes loose-tongued over chocolate.

[Reynolds later confirmed her statement to The Washington Post. "This is true confessions," she blurted, as she revealed having stockpiled 32 Snickers bars in the freezer and then eating them "almost at one sitting." Reynolds has admitted her condition to be extreme: "If there is a camp to go this summer, I want to go away to cure the habit . . . I do have a lot of vices, but the worst thing of all is this." And her dependency on chocolate certainly has tied her to the Reagans; their cook in Sacramento used to make a chocolate mousse, said Reynolds, "I'd perform any task to get hold of." While she was not about to dirty her hands by implicating anyone else ("Deaver can control it . . . Nancy Reagan can eat just one piece"), she was willing to reveal the extent of chocolate's influence: "There are chocoholics everywhere. They're in every corridor of power, they're lurking in the halls, munching away."]

Having run into a dead end in Washington, the sociologists turned to that other bastion of American achievement, Hollywood. Robert Redford wouldn't stop talking about the environment long enough to explain why a chocolate cake had been named after him in a best-selling cookbook. But Woody Allen was not only rumored to have a special feeling for sacher torte, he uncharacteristically, in 1970, appeared in a children's film, "How Do They Make Chocolate?"

Katharine Hepburn was once rumored to eat a pound of chocolate a day, but she held her secret better than Elizabeth Taylor, whose adoration of chocolate truffles led her to eat them smothered in chocolate syrup and whipped cream. Vincent Price was the son of a confectioner and never rebelled. Hermione Gingold has publicly identified chocolate as her downfall. And look at the stars of one of the greatest achievements of filmdom, "The Wizard of Oz": Judy Garland regularly had Nebraska's Bavarian Mints sent to her when she was in New York. Ray Bolger, born and raised near the home of Baker's Chocolate in Massachusetts, loved the stuff and gave it credit for his having the energy to dance still at age 78. The Wicked Witch of the West, Margaret Hamilton, owned up to a chocolate habit; and author Frank Baum for years sent his wife a box of chocolates every week.

Among more contemporary tastemakers, Dudley Moore, who knows a 10 when he sees one, cannot resist chocolate either, according to reliable sources. Mick Jagger--it should be no suprise--orders his chocolate melted, carried to him from Kron in New York in large pails.

The commission was flooded with rumors: Neil Simon. Susan Strasberg. Brooke Shields. James Coco (naturally).

Godiva in New York reported that its chocolate is bought by the "stars of all the Broadway shows" and identified Richard Chamberlain, Candace Bergen, Frank Sinatra and Liberace as frequent customers. In Washington, Burt Reynolds has dropped by Godiva, and so has Drew Lewis. Yoko Ono told the New York Daily News that she ate only chocolate after John Lennon died.

But still the evidence was not sufficient for our social scientists. In desperation they enlisted the help of the single most informed source on American social habits: They interviewed Ann Landers. That clinched it. Landers herself was a user. "I think it's my substitute for alcohol," she said. The behavior therapists nodded. "My addiction to chocolate is just that," continued Landers. They took notes. Landers had started early in her childhood. Has gone so far as to ask the diner next to her for his unfinished chocolate dessert. And in the wake of financial success she craves Teuscher's chocolates, which are flown from Switzerland.

The archeologists began their research with the Incas, continuing on to the Mayans and Aztecs. It seemed sheer concidence at first that these early great societies not only drank chocolate--as a coarse and bitter liquid, in its unsweetened state--but used it as money. At first CHOCOLAT's investigators ignored the implications of Montezuma's passion for chocolate--his drinking several hundred cups of it a day. Besides, when Columbus brought back to the Spanish court a few cocoa beans, Spain's royalty was not impressed.

Historians took over the study from that point, and eventually had to admit that the blindness to Columbus' discovery could have been the end of Spain. Fortunately Cortez, besides being clever enough to conquer Mexico, was eventually persuasive enough to get the Spaniards hooked on chocolate--once they added sugar to Montezuma's brew, it is said. And then the Spaniards were crafty enough to keep it a secret for a hundred years. By 1810 Spain was consuming a third of the world's cocoa production, but the U.S. was just awakening to chocolate (obviously, though, in time to win the Spanish-American War).

France's culinary greatness has long been attributed to Catherine de Medici marrying Henri II and bringing Italian taste with her. That's merely one of those tricks myth plays, the CHOCOLAT team realized; after all, where would the French be without chocolate mousse? Even in modern cuisine, informants suggested, Paul Bocuse's world fame as a chef came from his marrying the daughter of France's finest chocolatier, Bernachon, thus gaining exclusive restaurant access to his chocolates.

It was the Spanish Infanta, Anne of Austria, who brought the chocolate habit as her dowry to Louis XIII. And once chocolate became the fashionable drink at Versailles, in 1615, the secret was out, and the dark passion spread throughout Europe.

In 1765 the first chocolate factory opened in the United States. Some might argue that the American Revolution following on its heels was coincidence.

While the historians were busy crossing and recrossing the Atlantic, CHOCOLAT's economists gathered the evidence that although chocolate is an exclusively tropical plant, its consumption is concentrated in industrial countries. Their case was made.

Our military historians needed but a few days to solidify their conclusions. They already knew Napoleon routinely carried chocolate into battle. It was the military, after all, which had approached Milton Hershey to invent a chocolate bar that wouldn't melt in a soldier's pocket, and they shuddered to think how World War II would have gone without those 500,000 a day Field Ration D chocolate bars Hershey produced. They also recognized chocolate as the peacemaker American soldiers waved at liberated villages. And any of the researchers who had visited Caspar Weinberger's office could have checked out the chocolate drops in his top drawer.

The space scientists were aware that chocolate is a routine part of astronauts' flights both here and in the Soviet Union. Nuclear engineers had not forgotten that a melted chocolate bar had led to the discovery of microwave cooking. Physiologists knew Sir Edmund Hillary conquered Mt. Everest with chocolate. Plans for Implementation

Our mission: to gradually accustom the public to accept the fact that chocolate is good for them. The enormity of our task was summed up by Dr. Joseph Fries in a 1978 professional journal, The Annals of Allergy: "With the possible exception of milk and sugar, it is probable that chocolate is subjected to the most criticism leveled against a food."

The first stage of CHOCOLAT's campaign started with the popular press, statements in several newspapers and newsmagazines to the effect that chocolate is no worse than other candies; that while it contains saturated fat, it is a special kind of saturated fat that does not raise cholesterol levels. Teen-agers submitted to carefully controlled studies proving that chocolate does not cause acne--at least in no more than 1 percent of the population.

Gradually the claims became bolder. Chocolate is an "energizer," stated Dr. Thomas Waddell of the American Chemical Society. Other scientists chimed in: it is a diuretic, a heart stimulant, an aid to asthmatics' breathing. The Chocolate Manufacturers Association came out with a plan for dieters that suggested chocolate could keep them from feeling deprived while they restricted their caloric intake. Dental scientists contributed the discovery that an anti-decay factor in chocolate could counteract the decay factor in sugar; in fact, carob, the "healthy" chocolate substitute, was found much more decay-producing than chocolate.

Newspapers, magazines, television were then primed for the revelation of phenylethylamine-- the hormone produced by the brain when a person is in love. That chocolate was an aphrodisiac had long been dismissed by reasonable men--reasonable men who ignored Casanova's habit of sipping hot chocolate with his women before each romantic interlude, reasonable men who dismissed heart-shaped boxes of chocolate valentines as pure commercial folderol. But nothing could suit CHOCOLAT's plans better than to revive the aphrodisiac theory and lend it scientific backing. The grand coincidence is that a chemical similar to phenylethylamine also is found in chocolate.

Scientific backing for the consumption of chocolate was only one of many steps to intensify its popularity. Chocolate began to appear on pillows of not just the hotels where high achievers sleep, but in highway motels. Meanwhile, in the ballrooms of hotels from New York to Washington, it was reported that up to 50 percent of the wedding cakes were now chocolate. Chocolate books were hoisted to best-seller lists. Maida Heatter and Sandra Boynton became national heroes. People gave chocolate parties--from chocolate hors d'oeuvres to chocolate cups for the liqueurs. Chocolate chip cookie stores threatened to outnumber shoe stores in shopping malls, as chocolate chip cookie tastings edged out wine tastings. And then came the cookie-chip chocolate, a chocolate with bits of cookie in it. Chocolate bars were made for dogs, and your face could be sculpted in miniature chocolates. Italian menus started to feature chocolate pasta. Chocolate chili edged out turkey mole' as the most trendy use of chocolate. Chocolate began to ooze into every form of human activity, as cooperative chocolate-makers molded chocolate into Monopoly and domino games, greeting cards, picture frames, mink coats, pacifiers, New York subway tokens, even torsos.

But that may have been more than even CHOCOLAT intended.

Chocolate clearly has become more popular than ever; as candy consumption in the U.S. dropped, chocolate consumption continued to climb. It accounts for 0.7 percent of per capita food consumption, or about 9 pounds per person a year, making it a $3.5 billion industry in the United States.

CHOCOLAT has done its job thoroughly. A superstructure is in place. As many as 17,000 subscribe to the chocolate-scented and cocoa-colored newsletter Chocolate News. Others have joined the Chocolate Lovers Association, or attended chocolate counseling by chocolate therapists Roy Fitzgerald--a psychiatrist--and his wife, anthropologist Jennie Keith. Chocolate conventions and conferences capture the gregarious consumer. Mohonk Mountain Lodge in New York held its second annual four-day Chocolate Binge the same month as Hershey's five-day Great American Chocolate Festival in Pennsylvania, within months of a two-day Illinois chocolate conference for 500 people and San Francisco's Chocolate Festival, which drew 9,000.

One would expect CHOCOLAT to be sufficiently confident by now to release its findings, that chocolate is the key to success. America is firmly established as a chocolate-consuming society. Twenty dollars a pound. Thirty. When it comes to chocolate no price has been found to be too high. The Snickers bar is the staple of the '80s, and the children of today believe as much in Reese's Pieces as in outer space. Still, CHOCOLAT is haunted by 1978, when Soviet consumption was increasing and U.S. consumption was dropping. The fear remains: If Americans know that our national security depends on eating chocolate, will they still like it?