Bit of Chocolate in Pregnancy May Help Mom, Baby
No matter what the level of healthy flavanols, improvements seen in circulatory health
By Alan Mozes
THURSDAY, Feb. 4, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnant women who nibble just a small piece of chocolate each day may improve the circulatory health of their unborn child, a new study suggests.
The tiny treat may also reduce the risk for preeclampsia, a potentially deadly condition in which a pregnant woman with normal blood pressure suddenly develops dangerously high blood pressure, the researchers said.
The findings held up regardless of whether the chocolate consumed contained high or low amounts of so-called flavanols. Some experts believe these compounds -- found in certain plant-based food items -- may confer a number of health benefits.
But the association seen in the study did not prove that eating chocolate during pregnancy caused better circulatory health in pregnant women and their babies.
"Our observations suggest that a regular small consumption of dark chocolate -- whether or not the level of flavanol is high -- from the first trimester of pregnancy, could lead to an improvement of placental function," said study author Dr. Emmanuel Bujold. He is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Universite Laval in Quebec City, Canada.
And at least one nutritionist said she wasn't ready to embrace the study's findings.
The findings were scheduled for presentation Thursday at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's annual meeting, in Atlanta. The data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Flavanols are naturally present in large quantities in unprocessed cocoa. However, they have a somewhat bitter taste and some of the techniques used to turn natural cocoa into tasty cocoa powder or chocolate (such as fermentation) can result in a significant loss of flavanols, experts say.
For consumers, knowing when a piece of chocolate does or does not have a high amount of flavanols can be tricky.
That said, Bujold's team decided to see whether differences in flavanol content had any effect on the pregnancies of nearly 130 women.
All of the women in the study were at the 11- to 14-week mark of their pregnancy, and carrying one child.
All were instructed to consume 30 grams of chocolate (a little more than one ounce) each day over a 12-week period. That's equivalent to about one small square of chocolate per day, Bujold said.