A daily snack of quality dark chocolate is healthy for pregnant women and protects them from possible high blood pressure problems, a medical study said Monday.
By biting into rich, dark chocolate, there is a 69 percent less chance of contracting preeclampsia, a major pregnancy complication with cardiovascular manifestations such as hypertension that affects up to eight percent of pregnancies, said Dr. Elizabeth Triche.
The associate director at the Yale Center for Perinatal, Pediatric & Environmental Epidemiology, at Yale University, co-authored the 1996-2000 study of 2,291 women published in the May issue of Epidemiology.
The study method measured the density of theobromine -- a chemical in chocolate -- in the arterial cord blood extracted from the umbilical cord at delivery.
The primary effects of theobromine include diuresis, myocardial stimulation and vasodilatation. Other chemicals in chocolate include magnesium, which lowers hypertension, and flavanoids, which are potent antioxidants, the study said.
"Quantifying self-reported chocolate and cocoa consumption is extremely difficult due to considerable variation in the cocoa content of chocolate products," Triche said.
"The darker (the chocolate) is, the better it is. The more highly processed, the more fat and sweet it is, the less it contains theobromine," she said, adding that theobromine concentrations in chocolate vary from 0.15 percent to 0.46 percent.
"In this prospective cohort of pregnant women, we observed that chocolate consumption, as measured by cord serum levels of the biomarker theobromine, was associated with lower risk of preeclampsia," the study concluded.
"It's like eating a good quality chocolate bar every day," said Triche.