Pregnant? Eat Chocolate!
When a woman gets pregnant, eating turns into a minefield . Swordfish for dinner? Nope, too much mercury. Blue cheese or feta on your salad? Sorry, soft cheeses can carry dangerous bacteria. A couple of glasses of wine with dinner? Forget about it.
Well, here's something that may sound too good to be true: If you're pregnant it looks like you should eat chocolate. Yup, chocolate.
Turns out chocolate appears to protect a pregnant woman from a serious complication of pregnancy known as preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a common condition marked by high blood pressure and high levels of protein in the urine. It can be very dangerous -- even deadly -- for the mom and the baby.
The too-good-to-be-true news about chocolate comes from Elizabeth Triche of Yale University and her colleagues. The researchers studied 2,291 pregnant women who gave birth between 1996 and 2000. They asked the moms-to-be how much chocolate they ate in their first and second trimesters and tested blood from their umbilical cords for theobromine, a telltale component of chocolate.
Women who ate the most chocolate -- about a candy bar a day -- were about 70 percent less likely to develop preeclampsia than those who eat the least, the researchers report in this month's issue of the journal Epidemiology.
The findings mark the first time chocolate has been found to protect against preeclampsia. But they fit with earlier research indicating that chocolate is good for the heart, in part by reducing blood pressure. Dark chocolate appears to be the best, possibly because of substances known as flavanoids -- magnesum and theobromine.
Researchers need to do a lot more work to confirm their findings and figure out what exactly about chocolate is good. And the findings do not mean that pregnant women should pig out on chocolate: Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can lead to all sorts of problems. But Triche says if she was pregnant she'd eat a dark chocolate bar a day. It appears to help a woman get through those hard months in more ways than simply indulging her sweet tooth.
Note correction: This blog incorrectly stated the trimesters during which researchers gathered information about chocolate consumption. The information was gathered in the first and third trimesters.
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