Thursday, May 1, 2008

Chocolate & Pregnancy

The May 2008 issue of Epidemiology published a Yale study that suggests women who eat dark chocolate are at decreased risk of developing preeclampsia, a potentially dangerous complication of pregnancy.

The study looked at self-reported chocolate consumption and also at levels of a byproduct of chocolate consumption, called theobromine, in the cord blood of pregnant women.

Those who reported chocolate consumption of more than five servings a week had a 70% lower risk of developing preeclampsia.

The researchers have speculated that the presence of anti-oxidants called flavonoids in dark chocolate may confer cardiovascular benefits.

This does not mean pregnant women should eat all the chocolate they want, as tempting as this information may be. Excess consumption of all sweets can lead to weight gain and other health problems during pregnancy, just as it does in a non-pregnant state.


Jim W said...

Pure (sugar free) chocolate releases endorphins in the brain, which can act as pain-releivers' but it should only be consumed in small amounts because it also contains copper. Excessive copper intake is linked to osteoarthritis and mental impairment or dementia, as well as increasing angiogenesis, which increases the risk of wet AMD and tumor growth.

Dr. Jeffrey Anshel said...

I fear that the benefits of "REAL" chocolate are going to be mis-read by most of the public who still think in terms of "if some is good, more is better". Hope this doesn't become it's own epidemic!

That study didn't really seem to show a cause and effect, so I still think the jury is out.

Susan Miller, RN, PhD said...


Cause: Pregnancy induced preeclampsia.

Effect: Chocolate consumption of more than five servings a week lowered risk by 70%.

Spencer Thornton, M.D. said...

I agree with Dr. Anshel; the jury is still out on this.

Much as we would like to suggest that the flavenoids in dark chocolate are more effective than other antioxidants, there are other considerations such as the sugar content in most chocolate "foods".

Still, I recommend hot chocolate at the end of a stressful day because it does appear to stimulate endorphin production and leads to a good night's sleep.

Remember the rule: All things in moderation.

Why fight it? Anything is better if it is made of chocolate.

Jenny Spence, RN said...

In my opinion the jury is NOT still out. The Yale study is just one of many suggesting that the flavonoids in chocolate are beneficial to overall health.

I doubt you would say the jury is still out on the health benefits of dark colored berries, just becasue they are often presented in sweetened drinks.

We all know the addition of sugar to anything is bad, so focus on the benefits of unsweetened chocolate, not the sugar inside, which is what this and other chocolate studies focused on.

Your attitude makes about as much sense as your suggesting that the jury is still out on red wine being a good source of polyphenol Resveratrol.

And we all understand that wine and chocolate both should be consumed in moderation, as should everything else, including water.

Anonymous said...

Nutrients come from good sources other than Biosyntrx supplements. Personally, I prefer to get most of mine from fresh fruits and vegetables; a limited amount of animal protein, and some dark chocolate and red wine every day.

I also take 4 capsules of Oculair daily.

Spencer Thornton, M.D. said...

I just checked with the jury, and they wanted more information. So consider this:

Recent studies have suggested that cocoa possesses a significant antioxidant action, protecting against LDL oxidation and providing beneficial effects on human health.

Dark chocolate, with its high cocoa content, is a rich source of the flavenoids epicatechin and gallic acid, which are thought to possess properties that protect the heart and cardiovascular system.

Some studies have observed a modest reduction in blood pressure after consuming approximately 100g of dark chocolate daily. However, consuming milk chocolate or white chocolate, or drinking fat-containing milk with dark chocolate, appears largely to negate the health benefits.

Remember that processing cocoa powder with alkali (such as in “Dutch Chocolate”) destroys most of the flavonoids and antioxidant properties, so the benefits of chocolate are mostly limited to dark chocolate.

Chocolate is also a calorie-rich food with a high fat content, so daily intake of chocolate should be accompanied by reducing caloric intake of other foods.

Ellen Troyer, MT MA said...

Hi Jenny,

I'm not sure what you mean when you suggest that we think red wine is not a good source of resveratrol.

As far as I know, most of the folks involved with Biosyntrx often have, and thoroughly enjoy, a glass of red wine.

Jenny Spence, RN said...

Ellen, At your recommendation, I sat in on one of Dr. Anshel's lecturers not too long ago. He made it very clear that he thought red wine and chocolate were not appropriate sources of nutrients. That turned me right off because it made me question the depth of his nutrition science knowledge since there are hundreds of studies that refute his statement. A reasonable amount of red wine and pure chocolate are simple, affordable and innocient pleasurers in a world gone mad from bigpharma and oil company greed.

Ellen Troyer, MT MA said...


I'm so sorry - I don't remember you or making this recommendation, but I'm glad you sat in on the lecture anyway.

I'm sure Dr. Anshel was suggesting to his optometric audience that they and their patients should not depend on red wine and chocolate as their primary source of nutrition, since recent studies suggest that only eleven percent of the American population actually consume even five fruits and vegetables a day.

Have we met?

Jenny said...

No, we have not met. I sat in on one of your on-line nutrition and eye disease lecturers last year.

Ellen Troyer, MT MA said...

I hoe you enjoyed my talk - I will gently tease Dr. Anshel about his red wine and chocolate attitude that you obviously think needs help.

Dr. Jeffrey Anshel said...

Since my name is being tossed around so freely, thought I might jump back in here and at least state my position on my position!

I have seen several studies on the benefits of chocolate and red wine (we're now clumping these together) and I agree there are likely (ok, mostly) good benefits of each. But what I've stated (apparently not clearly enough) is that people get the wrong idea and immediately go into their "more is better" mode.
In fact, in one of my last lectures, as I was discussing the chocolate issue, I saw one lady in the audience hold her hands about a foot apart when I stated that ONE PIECE of chocolate is good but the whole box is not (yes, she was a bit overweight).
So, while our jury might be leaning toward good science, we still must look at the practical side(where the rubber meets the road) and see what people are hearing when we say "chocolate is good for you". We as scientists may know the facts but they just hear the headlines and exaggerate from there.
And then there is the genetic aspect of this: we all have essentially the same genes but different variations which make us more or less able to consume nutrients at different levels. (OK, this might be a new blog by itself). But briefly, it's difficult to say to a diabetic- sure, go eat some chocolate; or to a cirrhosis patient- go drink some wine and have that be OK. We need to moderate, as Dr. Thorton mentioned.
Whew- ok, have at it!
PS. I appreciate your passion for this and feel free to introduce yourself personally if we ever meet up again. I'd be glad to discuss this in person.

Lisa said...

Does dark chocolate contain caffeine? Because I thought caffeine was bad for pregnant women. Its all very confusing.

Beth said...

I don't think dark chocolate will help with preeclampsia. Every woman's body is different and pregnancy affects each of them differently. I think pregnant women should eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. They shouldn’t be trying to confuse women by saying eat dark chocolate. Tell them to eat healthy foods with anti-oxidants and to take their pre-natal vitamins. Who pays for these studies anyway?

Ellen Troyer, MT MA said...

I think you are missing the point. The study clearly shows that the risk of preeclampsia was reduced by 70% in those women who ate dark chocolate more than five days a week during their pregnancy.

Focus on what's in dark chocolate (flavonoids) that could cause this reduction, not on the fact that processed chocolate candy has calories and fat and caffeine.

Of course, pregnant women should eat healthy, but a bit of pure dark chocolate is healthy - notice I said bit, not bar.