Put another check in the win column for a reason to eat chocolate - as though anyone really needs one!
A new study suggests that moms-to-be that eat a small piece of chocolate every day may improve their baby’s cardiovascular health and reduce the risk for preeclampsia.
Researchers found that their findings held up regardless of whether the chocolate consumed contained high or low amounts of flavonoids, a group of phytochemicals that have antioxidant abilities. Various studies have also suggested that flavonoids may offer heart health benefits.
As with most studies, the research did not prove that eating chocolate during pregnancy caused better circulatory health in pregnant women and their babies, only that there was an association.
"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.
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.
Half of the women consumed high-flavanol chocolate, while the other half was given low-flavanol chocolate. All were then tracked until their delivery date.
Regardless of which type of chocolate was consumed, the women faced the same risk for both preeclampsia and routine high blood pressure. Placental weight and birth weight was also the same in both groups, the investigators found.
Similarly, fetal and placental blood circulation levels, as well as in-utero blood velocity, did not appear to be affected by shifting flavanol levels.
However, simply consuming a small amount of chocolate -- no matter what the flavanol content -- was associated with notable improvements in all blood circulation and velocity measures compared to the general population, the researchers said.
Bujold said this suggests that there's something about chocolate, apart from flavanol levels, that may exert a positive influence on the course of pregnancy. Finding out exactly what that is "could lead to improvement of women's and children's health, along with a significant reduction of treatment cost," he said.
While that’s good news for chocolate lovers, Bujold cautions that pregnant women keep the portion small and calorie intake low.
So, a bit of chocolate daily while pregnant is not going to hurt you, in fact it just may give you and your baby’s health a little boost.
The findings were scheduled for presentation 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.
Source: Alan Mozes, http://consumer.healthday.com/vitamins-and-nutrition-information-27/food-and-nutrition-news-316/small-square-of-chocolate-each-day-during-pregnancy-may-help-mom-and-baby-707736.html