Peanuts, Pregnancy and Protection

Eating nuts while pregnant lowers allergy risk for child

(RxWiki News) Many women are afraid to eat nuts while they’re pregnant for fear they could cause future allergies for their baby. New research suggests they need not worry.

A recently published study demonstrates that when pregnant women eat nuts regularly throughout their pregnancy, their child’s risk of allergies significantly decreases.

"Eat peanuts and other tree nuts."

Ekaterina Maslova, ScD, of the Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, and colleagues led a study to look at the relationship between women’s peanut and tree nut intake during pregnancy and whether or not their children developed allergies by 18 months and seven years of age.

Researchers used data collected from 61,908 women during a large-scale Danish pregnancy study conducted between 1996 and 2002. All participants were Danish women who were recruited during their first prenatal visit.

The women were interviewed over the phone at 12 and 30 weeks into their pregnancies.

Around their 25th week of gestation, the women were given a 360-item questionnaire asking about how often they ate specific foods, including peanuts and other tree nuts.

Interviews were again conducted when the child was 6 and 18 months old to find out if the baby had been diagnosed with asthma or shown any likely symptoms of asthma.

An additional questionnaire was sent to the mothers when the child turned 7 years old, asking if the child had been diagnosed with asthma and had experienced wheezing symptoms in the past 12 months, as well as any other allergic reactions such as hay fever.

Using the pregnancy food questionnaires and the follow-up interview data, the researchers examined the association between nut consumption and the development of asthma, wheezing or other allergies.

Only 39 percent of the women studied had consumed nuts during their pregnancies. Of the total number of women included in the analysis, three percent consumed peanuts one or more times per week, and nine percent consumed tree nuts one or more times per week.

Generally, the researchers found that the more peanuts and other tree nuts the pregnant woman consumed, the less likely it was for her child to develop allergies.

Eating peanuts one or more times per week was associated with a 21 percent reduced risk of asthma for the baby at 18 months, compared to the pregnancies where no nuts were consumed.

The children of those that consumed tree nuts one or more times per week had a comparative 25 percent reduced risk.

There was no difference between these two groups’ asthma outcomes when the child was 7 years old.

“We found that maternal peanut and tree nut intake one or more times per week during pregnancy decreases the risk of allergic disease in childhood,” wrote lead author Ekaterina Maslova in the study.

“These results do not support avoidance of nuts during pregnancy,” she wrote.

The research was funded by the Danish Council for Strategic Research, the Danish Council for Independent Research, Medical Sciences, the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation; the Lundbeck foundation; and the European Union (EU) Integrated Research Project EARNEST.

No potential conflicts of interest were reported.

The study was published online on June 27 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

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Review Date: 
October 9, 2012