Chocolate and Pregnancy, Perfect Together?
What could be sweeter than a study that says chocolate and pregnancy may be a great combination. That finding and the reasons why will be presented at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s annual meeting on February 4 in Atlanta.
Previous research has suggested that pregnant women who eat chocolate may have a greater risk of preeclampsia, although study results have been conflicting. Preeclampsia is a potentially dangerous condition in which pregnant women, who previously did not have hypertension, experience high blood pressure, swelling of the hands and feet, and protein in their urine.
Women with preeclampsia that goes undetected or managed can develop eclampsia, which can have serious and even deadly consequences for the mother and baby. Symptoms of eclampsia include seizures, severe agitation, muscle pain, and unconsciousness.
Chocolate and pregnancy study
In the new study, a team from the Université Laval Québec City, Canada, conducted a double-blind, randomized controlled trial involving 129 women who were giving birth to one child. The women were randomly selected to enjoy either 30 grams of high-flavanol or low-flavanol chocolate daily for 12 weeks beginning at 11 to 14 weeks gestation.
The researchers hoped to identify the impact of the chocolate on placental function and the risk of preeclampsia. Uterine artery Doppler was used to monitor the women, who were followed until they gave birth.
Although the researchers did not see any difference between the two groups of women in terms of preeclampsia, gestational high blood pressure, weight of the placenta, or birthweight, there was a marked improvement in a factor (uterine artery Doppler pulsatility index) that was much better than expected in the general population.
Based on this finding, Emmanuel Bujold, MD, one of the study’s authors, noted that their research “indicates that chocolate could have a positive impact on placenta and fetal growth and development.” The team also noted that the positive effects of chocolate “are not solely and directly due to flavanol content.”
Flavanols are naturally occurring compounds that are found in many foods, including cocoa. Other research has shown that flavanols can help improve blood vessel function and may be helpful in learning and memory as well.
Overall, studies of the benefits of chocolate have pointed to the superiority of dark chocolate over milk and white chocolate. Women who are pregnant who have a hankering for chocolate should talk to their healthcare provider about how they can enjoy dark chocolate during pregnancy.
Bujold E et al. High-flavanol chocolate to improve placental function and to decrease the risk of preeclampsia: a double blind randomized clinical trial. Presented at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine annual meeting
Cleveland Clinic: Heart health benefits of chocolate