Good news for pregnant chocolate lovers! Both low and high flavanol chocolate may have fetal benefits for growth and development. A new study presented at the 2016 Pregnancy Meeting of the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine says that eating 30 g of chocolate daily during pregnancy is linked to these benefits.
Previous research has suggested that moderate chocolate consumption during pregnancy may lower the risk of preeclampsia, a condition where the blood supply to the fetus is reduced due to the mother’s high blood pressure. But because that research was somewhat confusing, doctors wanted to find out more. Researchers enrolled 129 expectant mothers with singleton pregnancies in the study, and randomly selected them to consume either 30 g of low or the same amount of high flavanol chocolate daily over a 12 week period.
These women had their uterine artery Doppler pulsatility measured: this is a test measuring uterine, placental, and fetal blood flow, and notches are an indicator for the risk of preeclampsia, hypertension, or other pregnancy outcomes. All of the women participating in the study had double notching on the uterine artery Doppler index at the baseline, and they were followed up for the study until they gave birth.
Researchers found that there were no differences in preeclampsia, hypertension, placental weight and birth weight between the two groups, but they did find a significant improvement in uterine artery Doppler pulsatility in both groups. This suggests that both high and low flavanol chocolate may be beneficial to fetal growth and development. The improvement shown was greater than what could normally be expected in the general population.
Many expectant moms will cheer this news, given the long list of foods they are advised to avoid during pregnancy. Pregnant women have been cautioned about overindulging on chocolate because it has fat, sugar and caffeine content, but moderate consumption – such as the daily 30 g given in the new study – appears to be beneficial. Chocolate contains those flavanols that have already been proven to reduce risk of cardiovascular problems and lower cholesterol. The darker the chocolate is, the more flavanols it contains.
Just last November, other research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology said that moderate amounts of caffeine during pregnancy does not impact a baby’s intelligence as was previously suspected.
In a restrictive pregnancy diet, an allowance for a little sip of coffee and a nibble of chocolate can be very cheering.