Chocolate May Reduce the Risk of Pre-eclampsia

A recent Yale University study of 2291 pregnant women who delivered a single baby between 1996 to 2000 suggests that eating chocolate during pregnancy may reduce the risk of the mother developing pre-eclampsia.  Pre-eclampsia is a condition in which a pregnant woman develops high-blood pressure that causes swelling and/or high concentration of protein in the urine.  It also puts the fetus at risk as it is also associated with reduced blood flow to the placenta.  Pre-eclampsia can turn into eclampsia in the mother which causes comas, convulsions, and possible death.

In this study, women were checked for theobromine in their umbilical cord blood.  Theobromine, a chemical found in chocolate, crosses the placental barrier which means that the consumption of chocolate can be checked here.  The potential role of this chemical is that is may improve placental circulation.

Compared to women who ate less than 1 serving of chocolate weekly, this group of women were more likely to develop pre-eclampsia (5.5% in this group) than women who ate 5 or more servings of chocolate (2.9% in this group) during their first and third trimesters. 

If you’ve read the ‘Our Story’ page on the Jade Chocolates website, you already know that I got into the chocolate business partially due to the new craving for dark chocolate I acquired while I was pregnant. 

If I only knew this when I was pregnant!  During my second trimester, I was diagnosed with this condition.  I was told to rest a lot.  By the end of my pregnancy, I was going to the hospital for check-ups three times a week.  At my last appointment, my blood pressure must have been pretty high so they decided to induce labor.  Giving birth is the only cure for pre-eclampsia.  Apparently, I wasn’t eating enough chocolate!  I would have gladly gained a few extra chocolate pounds if it would have prevented my condition.  Luckily, there were no complications afterbirth.

This photo is of me at 21 weeks pregnant, taken at my cousin’s wedding in the Napa Valley.

The original article was published in Epidemiology, May 2008 issue.

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