Indulging in chocolate during pregnancy could help ward off a serious complication known as preeclampsia, in which blood pressure spikes during pregnancy while excess protein is released into the urine, according to researchers at Yale University in New Haven, Conn.
Rich in a chemical called theobromine, chocolate (especially dark chocolate) stimulates the heart, relaxes smooth muscle and dilates blood vessels, and has been used to treat chest pain, high blood pressure, and hardening of the arteries.
Investigating whether chocolate's possible cardiovascular benefits also might help prevent preeclampsia, the researchers looked at 2,291 women who delivered a single infant, and asked them about how much chocolate they consumed in their first and third trimesters. They also tested the levels of theobromine in infants' umbilical cord blood, reports Epidemiology (May 2008).
Women who consumed the most chocolate and those whose infants had the highest concentration of theobromine in their cord blood were the least likely to develop preeclampsia. Women in the highest quarter for cord blood theobromine were 69 percent less likely to develop the complication than those in the lowest quarter.