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Chocolate Consumption During Pregnancy Benefits Fetal Development

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 14 Feb 2016
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A new study suggests that pregnant women who eat 30 grams of chocolate every day during pregnancy may benefit fetal growth and development.

Researchers at Université Laval (Canada) conducted a randomized controlled trial involving 129 expectant mothers with a singleton pregnancy between 11–14 weeks' gestation, and who had double-notching on uterine artery Doppler. The women selected were randomized to either high-flavanol (HF) or low-flavanol (LF) chocolate, with 30 g consumed daily for 12 weeks. The main outcome measures were uterine artery Doppler pulsatility index (UtA PI), preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, placenta weight, and birthweight.

The results showed a significant decrease in uterine UtA PI among both chocolate groups, and that the difference between them was not significant, suggesting that both HF and LF chocolate may benefit fetal growth and development. At 12 weeks, no significant difference was noted between the HF and LF groups in the rate of preeclampsia and gestational hypertension. Placental weight and birthweight were also comparable between the two groups. The study was published in the January 2016 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

“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,” concluded lead author Emmanuel Bujold, MD, and colleagues. “Previous epidemiological studies, along with our results, suggest that consumption of dark chocolate during pregnancy could help in the improvement of placental function and the reduction of preeclampsia.”

In women who are not pregnant, blood flow in the uterine artery is of a high pulsatility, with high systolic flow and low diastolic flow; a physiological early diastolic notch may be present. Resistance to blood flow normally drops gradually during gestation as greater trophoblastic invasion of the myometrium takes place; a persistent abnormally high resistance, however, often equates to a 70% chance of preeclampsia and 30% chance of intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR).

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