Chocoholics give birth to joyous babies

A scientist says pregnant women who eat lots of chocolate have happier newborns.

Just in time for Easter, Katri Raikkonen of the University of Helsinki says the babies of chocolate-loving mothers topped the charts in many factors relating to happiness, including fear, "soothability," smiling and laughter.

Raikkonen, a psychologist who specializes in studies of personality and well-being, questioned 300 Finnish women while they were pregnant, and again six months after their babies were born. She asked about stress levels among the expectant mothers and about their diets, including chocolate.

Chocolate is known to have some 300 "psychoactive" chemicals - compounds that can affect the brain, mostly in pleasant ways. So what's in chocolate besides the delicious flavour?

- Serotonin, a chemical also made by your brain. It makes you feel happy.

- A pair of stimulants -- theobromine and caffeine. Both wake you up; they're also mildly addictive.

- A chemical called phenyl-ethylamine, which is related to adrenaline in our bodies. It boosts your heart rate and activity level.

- Cannabinoids. Yes, the same compounds found in cannabis.

- Chocolate even triggers the release of endorphins, natural painkillers that your body also produces during exercise, inform

Expectant mothers can take heart this Easter. Tucking into chocolate eggs is good for the baby - especially if you are feeling a bit on edge.

Katri Raikkonen at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and her colleagues asked pregnant women to rate their stress levels and chocolate consumption.

After the babies were born, they looked for an association between the amount of chocolate their mothers had eaten and the babies' behaviour. Six months after birth, the researchers asked mothers to rate their infants' behaviour in various categories, including fear, soothability, smiling and laughter.

The babies born to women who had been eating chocolate daily during pregnancy were more active and "positively reactive" - a measure that encompasses traits such as smiling and laughter. And the babies of stressed women who had regularly consumed chocolate showed less fear of new situations than babies of stressed women who abstained, report

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