Peanuts and Pregnancy

As we’ve discussed before, peanut allergies are on the rise. One study showed that the incidence of peanut allergy in children doubled between 1997 and 2002. Now, it seems researchers have discovered one of the reasons why.

A study of almost 62,000 mothers showed that the children of those who ate peanuts and tree nuts while pregnant were less likely to develop asthma or allergies than the kids whose mothers shunned nuts.

The results support the recent withdrawal of recommendations in both the US and the UK that pregnant women should avoid nuts because they might raise a child’s risk for allergies to the nuts.

There is little research on peanut eating during pregnancy and the subsequent risk for peanut allergy in her children yet the fear continues to lead many expectant mothers to steer clear of nuts.

So, researchers at the Centre for Fetal Programming at Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, wanted to take a more extensive look at nut exposure and the possible health outcomes in kids.

The mothers provided information about how often they ate peanuts and tree nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, during pregnancy.

At age 18 months, the researchers found, the kids whose mothers ate peanuts were less likely to have asthma.

Fifteen percent of kids whose moms ate peanuts more than once a week, had asthma compared to more than 17 percent of kids whose moms never ate peanuts.

When other asthma risk factors were taken into account, the researchers concluded that kids whose mothers ate peanuts regularly were 21% less likely to develop asthma.

At seven years old, this same group of kids was 34% less likely to have a diagnosis of asthma than kids whose moms had abstained from peanuts.

Similarly, mothers who ate tree nuts more than once a week had 18-month-olds who were 25% less likely to have asthma than the moms who avoided the nuts, although this difference appeared to fade as the kids reached seven years old.

Peanuts appeared to have no effect on whether kids developed nasal allergies, and the children of moms who frequently ate tree nuts were 20% less likely to have allergies.

Lead author, Ekaterina Maslova said the findings are further reassurance that moms-to-be don’t need to avoid peanuts and tree nuts, although the study doesn’t prove that nuts are actually protective against asthma and allergies.

Mahr, who is also chair of the section on allergy and immunology at the American Academy of Pediatrics, noted that interviewing people about what they eat can introduce some accuracy issues, but the findings are still interesting.

SRxA Advisor Todd Mahr, a pediatric allergist at Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin, who was not involved in the study said “A take home from this would be if there’s no food allergy in your family, but there’s an asthma history in your family, maybe you might not want to avoid peanuts specifically.”

All of which is good news for moms with peanut butter cravings.

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