There's a Good Reason to Eat Chocolate While Pregnant

Don't step away from that candy bar just yet—if recent research is any indication, there's a good reason to indulge those chocolate cravings during pregnancy.

Researchers from the Society for Maternal and Fetal Medicine found some unexpected benefits associated with eating the sweet stuff and will present these findings on February 4 at The Pregnancy Meeting in Atlanta.

There have been conflicting ideas about the effect chocolate can have on pregnancy and this set out to determine the truth. For one thing, we previously thought flavanol, which is found in cocoa, provided the health benefits associated with eating chocolate while pregnant. However, this particular study's findings were a bit surprising.

According to its double-blind trial, chocolate can improve placental function and decrease your risk of preeclampsia. The researchers studied 129 women who were between 11 and 14 weeks pregnant. Half the women were fed low-flavanol chocolate; the other half ate high-flavanol chocolate. The women all consumed 30 grams of chocolate a day.

According to the results, the uterine artery Doppler pulsarility index (which measures blood velocity in the uterine, placental and fetal circulations) in both groups was much more positive than expected in the general population. However, there were no significant differences in preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, placental weight or birth weight between the two groups—which might indicate that flavanol isn't actually the key ingredient in chocolate's health benefits. Researchers are unsure of what component of chocolate provides these benefits.

"This study indicates that chocolate could have a positive impact on placenta and fetal growth and development and that chocolate's effects are not solely and directly due to flavanol content," study researcher Emmanuel Bujold, M.D., said in the study's release. The researchers cannot recommend a specific amount of chocolate that pregnant women should consume, so we'll advise that you treat yourself once in a while.