Chocolate might not be so bad for pregnant women after all, according to a recent study.
Earlier studies show that flavanols, compounds found in certain plant-based products like chocolate, increased the risk of preeclempsia in pregnant women. The recent study by the Laval University in Canada shows that it doesn’t. Plus, the study also found that it improved the circulatory health of the babies in pregnant women’s tummies.
“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, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the university.
The study involved 130 women in their 11th to 14th week of pregnancy. Half were given high-flavanol chocolate and the other half low-flavanol chocolate. They were instructed to eat 30grams (or about an ounce) each day.
By using the Doppler pulsatility index, the researchers found that the women’s uterine, placental, and fetal circulations improved. The risk for preeclempsia and routine high blood pressure was also the same for both groups of women; the amount of flavanol didn’t make a difference. In addition, placental weight and birth weight were relatively the same in both groups.
Despite this, Bujold said that their findings shouldn’t be a reason for pregnant women to eat as much chocolate as they want. “Consumption of chocolate must remain reasonable during pregnancy,” he said, “and caloric input has to be considered in the equation.”
Lona Sandon, an assistant professor in the department of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in the U.S., told HealthDay that there are other more important nutrients pregnant women should be focusing on. “Such as folate, calcium, protein and iron from quality food sources,” she said.
Folic acid, or folate, plays a large role in cell growth and tissue formation. It reduces the risk of serious neural tube defects in newborns. This is when a baby is born with an incomplete brain or spine. Folic acid can be found in green leafy vegetables.
Calcium is highly important for the development of an unborn baby’s bones. Protein, on the other hand, is the building block of cells. It ensures that the baby grows to his full potential. Iron-deficiency is associated with preterm birth, low birth weight and infant mortality. That’s why pregnant women are typically advised to take iron supplements.
Ask your doctor about the nutrients you should be getting for your pregnancy.
Sources: February 4, 2016. "Bit of Chocolate in Pregnancy May Help Mom, Baby" (webmd.com) Undated. "Folic Acid and Pregnancy" (kidshealth.org) Undated. "Calcium in your pregnancy diet" (babycenter.com) Undated. "8 Protein-Rich Foods for Pregnancy (Plus Great Ways to Eat Them!)" (whattoexpect.com) Undated. "Increasing Iron in Your Diet During Pregnancy" (clevelandclinic.org)