Many women suffer a common complication during pregnancy called “preeclampsia.” This condition causes high blood pressure and loss of protein in the urine that starts happening after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Without proper recognition, preeclampsia can cause serious complications for mother and unborn child. The cure is to deliver the baby. Thus, the spotlight falls on how an expectant mother can prevent this unwanted problem.
And one newly uncovered preventative measure may bring smiles to mothers’ faces. Chocolate. The ultimate sinful treat is high in “theobromine,” a chemical that strengthens the heart, dilates blood vessels and relaxes smooth muscles. It has even been used to treat high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries and chest pain. And all this time, it has been sitting inside chocolate.
As usual, dark chocolate is the best kind; the one filled with the most natural chemicals. Researchers recently tested chocolate’s ability to protect the heart in about 2,300 women. They asked the mothers how much chocolate they ate, roughly, in their first and third trimesters. Then they tested the levels of theobromine in the newborns’ umbilical cord blood.
They discovered that women who ate the most chocolate, and those whose infants had the most theobromine in their blood, were the least likely to get preeclampsia. Those who had the most theobromine in the umbilical cord had a 70% reduced risk of developing the condition compared to those with the least amount.
On the chocolate side of things, women who ate five or more servings a week in their third trimester were 40% less likely to develop preeclampsia. The third trimester seems the most important time. There was also a link to chocolate consumption in the first trimester, but it was far weaker.
It is believed that theobromine could boost the circulation of blood in the placenta and also act as an antioxidant. That means it blocks oxidative stress that can damage cells. There may even be other chemicals within chocolate that team up with theobromine toward this beneficial effect.
The researchers call for more studies (as usual), because the link between chocolate and preeclampsia is too promising to ignore. Remember that chocolate is high in sugar and saturated fat, so don’t eat a lot of it every day, or your waistline will suffer.