The benefits of eating chocolate while pregnant


Bun in the oven? Have a bonbon!

No wine, no raw cheese, no sushi …. some cooked fish, easy on the coffee, no raw cookie dough! The things we have to endure to bring a healthy baby into being. (First world problems, I know, but for the sake of this story I’m going with it.)

However, now some good news comes in the form of new research presented at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s annual meeting, offering a glimpse of a not-so-deprived future for pregnant women. A double blind randomized clinical trial of 129 women found that chocolate improved placental function and decreased the risk of preeclampsia.

Earlier studies have shown mixed results about the role of chocolate in connection to the risk of preeclampsia, the pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure. So researchers from Université Laval Québec City, Canada, decided to further evaluate the impact of high-flavanol chocolate. Flavanols are a subclass of flavonoids that are thought to give plant-based foods such a powerful health kick.

They started with a randomized controlled trial of 129 women who were between 11 and 14 weeks pregnant. The women were given 30 grams daily of either high-flavanol or low-flavanol chocolate for 12 weeks and were followed until delivery.

The results were a bit surprising. There was no difference in preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, placental weight or birth weight in the two groups. But, the “uterine artery Doppler pulsatility index” – described as a surrogate marker of blood velocity in the uterine, placental and fetal circulations – showed significant improvement in both groups, and exhibited a level that was much greater than in the general population.

“This study indicates that chocolate could have a positive impact on placenta and fetal growth and development and that chocolate’s effects are not solely and directly due to flavanol content,” says Emmanuel Bujold, M.D., one of the researchers on the study.

And now I rain on the pregnant parade: 30 grams is just over an ounce – which is still enough to potentially feed a chocolate fix, but not enough to gorge on. And of course you should check with your healthcare provider for their advice before pursuing these benefits.

Melissa Breyer (@MelissaBreyer)

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