- Regular moderate consumption of chocolate, regardless of its flavanol content level, could enhance placental function and improve blood circulation in pregnant women.
- Despite the potential benefits, responsible chocolate consumption is urged during pregnancy due to considerations about caloric intake.
- The study found no significant differences in risks of preeclampsia, high blood pressure, or placental and birth weights between those consuming high flavanol and low flavanol chocolate.
- Other dietary nutrients like folate, calcium, protein, and iron from quality food sources should not be neglected during pregnancy for the proper growth and development of the baby.
Expectant mothers who indulge in a small piece of chocolate a day could boost their unborn child’s circulatory health,according to a recent study. This tiny indulgence may also help lower the risk of preeclampsia, a severe condition in which a pregnant woman develops dangerously high blood pressure unexpectedly.
Correlation Between Flavanols and Circulatory Health
Researchers noted that the improvement was seen irrespective of the chocolate having high or low concentrations of flavanols. Flavanols, compounds thought to have health benefits, are found in specific plant-based foods. However, the study did not establish a direct causal link between chocolate consumption during pregnancy and improved circulatory health in expectant mothers and their offspring.
“Our findings imply that regular, modest consumption of dark chocolate from the first trimester could enhance placental function,” said Dr. Emmanuel Bujold, a respected Professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Universite Laval in Quebec City, Canada.
Flavanols in Cocoa and Chocolate
Flavanols are abundant in raw, unprocessed cocoa. However, the bitter taste of flavanols and certain processing methods used to transform raw cocoa into edible cocoa powder or chocolate might diminish its flavanol content. As a result, determining the flavanol level in a piece of chocolate can be challenging.
Investigation into Flavanols and Pregnancy
The research team under Dr. Bujold set out to investigate the impacts of flavanol content variances on the pregnancies of nearly 130 women.
Participants were all in their 11th to 14th week of pregnancy with a single child. They were instructed to consume 30 grams of chocolate — a tad more than an ounce, roughly equivalent to a small square of chocolate — each day for 12 weeks. Half of them were given high-flavanol chocolate, while the others received low-flavanol chocolate. They were then monitored till their delivery.
Chocolate Consumption: High and Low Flavanol Chocolate Groups
The researchers observed no variances in the risk of preeclampsia and customary high blood pressure or in placental and birth weights in both high and low flavanol chocolate groups.
They also found no difference in fetal and placental blood circulation and in-utero blood velocity due to changes in flavanol levels.
However, distinct improvements in all blood circulation and velocity measures were noticed in expectant mothers who consumed a small amount of chocolate daily, regardless of flavanol content, compared to the general population.
This finding suggests that certain chocolate components, apart from the flavanol content level, might have a beneficial impact on the pregnancy course. Bujold stated that identifying these components “could lead to improvement of women’s and children’s health, along with a significant reduction of treatment cost.” At the same time, he cautioned prudent chocolate consumption during pregnancy, emphasizing the consideration of caloric intake.
Takeaways from the Study
Lona Sandon, an assistant professor in the department of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, shares similar sentiments. “This is not a license to go wild with chocolate,” she reminded. “Keep in mind the amount of chocolate was only 30 grams, or one ounce. That is just a few bites. Piling on the chocolate bars may pile on the pounds beyond what pregnant women would be advised to gain,” Sandon warned.
She also emphasized the importance of other nutrients like folate, calcium, protein, and iron from quality food sources for the proper growth and development of the baby.
Sandon’s final word of advice is, “Enjoy a little good chocolate from time to time. But I am not recommending it yet for a healthy pregnancy.”
For more information on chocolate and health, visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health website.