Researchers Investigate If Peanuts During Pregnancy Curb Nut Allergies in Offspring

PHOTO: Children of women who ate peanuts while pregnant are less likely to have nut allergies according to a study.
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Could a peanut-heavy diet for pregnant women help keep their children from suffering dangerous nut allergies? Researchers are investigating the possibility in a new study.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics, the study found that when pregnant women ate more peanuts and tree nuts they tended to have children with fewer nut allergies.

Peanut allergies in children have gone up from 0.4 percent in 1997 to 1.4 percent in 2010, according to the study.

Researchers examined more than 8,000 children and their mothers to understand how diet during pregnancy might affect allergies in children. The researchers initially questioned the mothers about their diet either when they were pregnant or shortly after in the early 1990’s. In 2009, they questioned their children to see who had developed allergies.

The researchers found that a pregnant woman who ate a serving of nuts at least five times week was 69 percent less likely to report having a child with nut allergies compared to a pregnant woman who ate a serving of peanuts or tree nuts less than once a month.

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However the researchers called for more studies before advising expectant mothers to have a daily peanut butter sandwich.

Dr. Samuel Friedlander, an allergy and immunology specialist at the University Hospitals in Cleveland, said doctors should be conservative about food recommendations for expectant moms.

“The advice is to eat a healthy diet and we don’t quite know whether avoidance [of allergens] is helpful or not,” said Friedlander of advising pregnant women on what to eat. “It shows also that we need to be careful about recommendations that we make.”

Until 2008, many doctors and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warned pregnant women not to eat any peanuts or other known allergenic foods, and to avoid giving them to children until at least three years of age.

Currently, the AAP says there is no specific allergen-related food that pregnant women should avoid during pregnancy.

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