ANGELES — Pregnant peanut lovers can celebrate, perhaps with
a PB&J snack: A study shows an association between
pregnant women who ate the most peanuts and tree nuts and
children with a decreased risk of allergy.
had been advised to avoid peanuts and tree nuts, as well as
other highly allergic foods, during pregnancy and until the
child turned 3, as a way to try to reduce the chances of an
allergy. But those recommendations were rescinded after
researchers found that the effort didn’t work.
current study, from Boston Children’s Hospital and published
Dec. 30 in the Journal of the American Medical Association
Pediatrics, found that women who ate nuts more than five times
a month had the lowest incidence of allergic children.
linking maternal peanut consumption to reduced allergy risk,
we are providing new data to support the hypothesis that early
allergen exposure increases tolerance and reduces risk of
childhood food allergy," Dr. Michael Young, lead author
of the study, said in a statement.
guidelines recommend that mothers should not restrict their
diets during pregnancy, but this recommendation remains a
widely debated topic among food allergy experts," Dr.
Ruchi Gupta wrote in an opinion piece accompanying the study.
Further research is needed, Gupta wrote, to determine why 1 in
13 U.S. children has a food allergy of some kind.
recommendations to avoid allergens, more children were found
to be allergic to nuts and other foods, with the rate tripling
from 1997 to 2007. Peanut allergies affect 1 percent to 3
percent of people in most Western countries. In the U.S., it’s
at 4 percent, the study said. The reasons are not known.
one can say for sure if the avoidance recommendation for
peanuts was related to the rising number of peanut allergies
seen in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but one thing is
certain: It did not stop the increase," Young said.
researchers looked at data from 8,205 children, whose parents
were part of the Nurses Study, a long-term health study. They
found 140 cases of peanut or tree nut allergy among the
children born from Jan. 1, 1990, to Dec. 31, 1994.
studies have shown a protective effect of maternal exposure to
allergens in foods. The human data, Young said, are not strong
enough to conclude a cause-and-effect relationship. He said
more research is needed.
nuts are walnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, pecans,
hazelnuts, macadamia nuts and Brazil nuts. Peanuts, Gupta
noted, are a good source of protein, and they provide folic
acid, which has the potential to prevent neural tube defects.
course, the researchers said, women who are themselves
allergic should not eat peanuts or tree nuts.