Karen Costello with her 11-week-old daughter Claire Connor enjoys some dark chocolate.

Karen Costello with her 11-week-old daughter Claire Connor enjoys some dark chocolate. Photo: Colleen Petch

Wanted: pregnant women with a craving for chocolate.

Researchers are trying to test the theory that consuming small amounts of dark chocolate can reduce the risk of women developing the condition pre-eclampsia during pregnancy.

From next month, 100 pregnant women in Canberra, Cairns and Atherton will be given 25 grams of dark chocolate every day, up until 36 weeks of pregnancy.

A control group will not be given the dark chocolate but will also have their pregnancies followed.

Researcher and Canberra obstetrician and gynaecologist Professor Steve Robson said consuming dark chocolate was associated with a decrease in cardiovascular disease and it was hoped it could also help prevent pre-eclampsia.

“Nobody has ever been able to prevent or stop pre-eclampsia from coming on and they've tried all sorts of things over the years," Professor Robson said.

Pre-eclampsia affects about 10 per cent of pregnant women and can cause a rise in blood pressure and swelling of the feet, fingers and face.

More serious symptoms can include damage to the mother's kidneys, liver, brain and heart and interfere with the growth of the baby.

It can lead to life-threatening eclampsia, which causes the mother to have fits.

Taking part in the study should not be considered an excuse to pig out on chocolate.

Professor Robson said the dark chocolate issued to women would represent five per cent of their recommended daily fat intake.

“It would be bad news if on the one hand eating chocolate every day reduced the risk of getting hypertension and pre-eclampsia, but on the other hand put up your risk of getting diabetes. So we want to make sure it's not a give with one hand and a take with the other," he said.

Professor Robson said an initial pilot study would examine issues such as whether morning sickness prevented women from consuming dark chocolate.

The study is being conducted by James Cook University and the researchers have deliberately not sought funding from chocolate companies.

Chocolate lover Karen Costello, who have birtgh to her daughter Claire Connor 11-weeks-ago, said she liked the idea that one of her favourite fooods may have helped protect her health during pregnancy.

Ms Costello, of Barton, said she had tried to eat only small amounts of chocolate when pregnant with her two children.

"I tried to eat good quality chocolate in modest amounts," she said.

A website will go live later this month with information for potential study participants. The address will be www.chocolatestudy.net