Being Pregnant

It’s Official! Eating Chocolate May Boost Fetal Growth During Pregnancy

It’s another win for chocolate! Researchers at the Universite Laval in Quebec City, Canada say that eating chocolate during pregnancy may boost fetal growth.

Along with this, the study may have also found a link between eating the sweet stuff (well, actually more like bitter dark chocolate) and looked at the possibility of a decreased risk of developing pre-eclampsia.

How did the experts come to this chocolate-coated conclusion?

The study followed 129 women who were between 11 and 14 weeks pregnant. Only single pregnancies (no twins, triplets or other mega multiples) were allowed. Each mum-to-be was given either 30g of high-flavanol chocolate or 30g of low-flavanol chocolate. If you’re now wondering what flavanols are, what the difference is between these two types and why it’s at all important, here it is: Flavanols are the chemical compounds that make cocoa healthy.

Other studies have found that flavanols have health benefits, such as improving mental functioning and lowering blood pressure. Dark chocolate, which was used in the fetal growth study, is richer in cocoa than milk chocolate. This means that dark is higher in flavanols than the milk variety. When it comes down to it, if you’re looking for a higher dose of flavanols, you need a chocolate that’s higher in cocoa concentration.

Back to the two types. It would seem fit to reason that high-flavanol foods would pack a heftier punch in terms of health benefits than the low dose type. That said, the recent research into fetal growth, found little difference between the mums in each (high and low flavanol) group.

Researchers measured each mum’s uterine artery Doppler pulsatility index (PI) up until they gave birth. The PI shows how fast the blood is flowing in the placental, fetal and uterine circulations. Even though researchers didn’t find any real difference between the high and low flavanol groups, they did see a greater than expected blood flow. The study also looked at the incidences of pre-eclampsia, gestational hypertension, birth weight and the weight of the placenta.

A high PI? Better blood flow? What does this mean for you, the pregnant mum who’s spending her days dreaming of chocolate bars, chocolate chips, chocolate cakes and anything else made from cocoa? Researcher Emmanuel Bujold told ABC news

“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.”

Wait. Does that mean flavanol has nothing to do with fetal blood flow and increased growth? Not necessarily. It may just mean that the concentration of flavanol isn’t as important as the presence of the chemical compound itself.

The study, which was presented at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s meeting in Atlanta, Georgia in the US, sought to resolve conflicting past research on chocolate and the risk for developing pre-eclampsia (a condition of late pregnancy that includes severe swelling, high blood pressure and a host of possible problems for both mum and baby).

Researchers could not establish a clear connection between the two. Even so, the findings that eating chocolate impacts fetal growth is promising – whether you’re a researcher yourself or just a pregnant chocolate lover!


Avatar of Belinda Jennings

Belinda's a passionate advocate for community and connection. As the founder of the Mum Central Network she’s committed to celebrating the journey that is Australian parenthood. Mum to two cheeky boys, and wife to her superstar husband, they live a busy but crazy lifestyle in Adelaide. Great conversation, close friends and good chocolate are her chosen weapons for daily survival. Oh, and bubbles. Champagne is key.

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