A new study suggests that pregnant women who eat peanuts or tree nuts
are less likely than others to have a child with a nut allergy.
more nuts women ate during their pregnancies, the less likely their
child was to be allergic, according to the study, in today's JAMA Pediatrics.
and doctors have been increasingly concerned over nut allergies in
recent years, as the number of allergic kids has grown. The prevalence
of a peanut or tree nut allergy more than tripled from 1997 to 2010,
when it reached 1.4% of kids. Tree nuts include walnuts, almonds,
pistachios, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamias and Brazil nuts.
The study included nearly 11,000 mothers and children, who were followed from birth through adolescence.
one in 13 children today has a food allergy, according to an
accompanying editorial by Ruchi Gupta of the Northwestern Feinberg
School of Medicine in Chicago. Allergies can be serious: About 40% of
allergic children have had a severe or life-threatening reaction.
Yet Gupta writes that women have a right to feel confused, as allergy guidelines have "flip-flopped" over the years.
2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised pregnant women to
avoid peanuts and tree nuts while pregnant or nursing, to avoid exposing
infants, and to keep kids away from nuts until age 3. The pediatric
academy reversed this advice in 2008, telling women there was no need to
avoid nuts during pregnancy or early childhood.
Gupta notes that some studies have found that avoiding nuts during pregnancy actually increases the child's risk of nut allergy.
pregnant women already get a lot of advice on avoiding or limiting
certain foods and beverages, including alcohol, caffeine, even deli
meats and soft cheeses, which can carry Listeria, a bacteria that can
When it comes to nuts, though, Gupta writes that
women who aren't allergic should feel free to include them in their
diets, because they're both high in protein and folic acid, a vitamin
that can help prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
Davis, a doctor in Texas Children's Hospital's allergy, asthma and
immunology Department, says the study doesn't definitively prove that
eating peanuts while pregnant prevents peanut allergy.
conflicting research results, Davis says there still isn't a clear
answer whether "eating nuts before, during or after pregnancy would be
beneficial for the child in the prevention of food allergy."
notes that "this study does not eliminate the possibility that
increased fruits and vegetables or earlier introduction of nuts may play
a role in protection against nut allergy, too."