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Can Chocolate Reduce the Chance of Pregnancy Complications ?

One of the rough things about being pregnant is the need to give up or cut back on some of your favorite vices.  Yes, we're talking about things like wine, beer, cigarettes, even too much coffee.  But here's good news:  One of your vices might actually be good for expectant mothers.  According to a recent study, eating a moderate amount of chocolate while pregnant could help fight the serious pregnancy complication we call "preeclampsia."

Chocolate has plenty of a helpful chemical called theobromine, dark chocolate even more so than milk chocolate.  Theobromine helps stimulate the heart and relax muscle, and at the same time dilates your blood vessels.  The chemical has effectively treated high blood pressure, chest pain and hardening of arteries, according to Dr. Elizabeth Triche and colleagues of Yale University.  This makes it an especially good candidate for dealing with preeclampsia, a condition in which the pregnant woman's blood pressure spikes as some excess protein gets into the urine.

In the study, the researchers observed almost 2,300 women who delivered a baby.  They questioned them on the amount of chocolate they had consumed in the first and third trimesters.  They found that those who had consumed the most were least likely to be the ones who had developed preeclampsia. 

Specifically, if they had eaten five or more servings per week in the third trimester, their chance of developing the condition was 40 percent less likely than the women who had chocolate than than one time per week.

And while the results were more striking in the third semester, there was also some benefit to the women during the first trimester. The study showed that those who ate five or more servings per week had a 19 percent lesser chance of developing preeclampsia than those who had chocolate foods than than a single time a week.

The reason for this could be that theobromine might improve circulation in the woman's placenta, as it also blocks oxidative stress.

Having said all of this, there is still the caffeine issue.  Other studies have shown that it could be unhealthy for a pregnant women to consume too much caffeine during their pregnancy--and of course, chocolate contains a small amount of caffeine.  So how does the woman balance all of this?

The key is moderation.  The American Pregnancy Association says that a moderate amount of caffeine each day--which it defines as no more than 150 to 300 mg a day -- should be fine.  And an ounce of dark chocolate could have somewhere between 5 and 35 mg.  So this should leave plenty of room for some dark chocolate in the diet.

However, remember that, because this study is still new, you should always speak with your physician before changing your pregnancy diet.

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