Pregnant women can fill up on peanuts, study says

LOS ANGELES — Pregnant peanut lovers can celebrate, perhaps with a PB&J snack: A study out Monday shows an association between pregnant women who ate the most peanuts and tree nuts and children with a decreased risk of allergy.

Women 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 But those recommendations were rescinded after researchers found that the effort didn’t work.

In the current study — from Boston Children’s Hospital and published Monday 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.

“By 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.

“Current 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 one in 13 U.S. children has a food allergy of some kind.

Despite 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.

“No 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.

The 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 between Jan. 1, 1990, and Dec. 31, 1994.

Animal 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.

Tree 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.

Of course, the researchers said, women who are themselves allergic should not eat peanuts or tree nuts.

More in Local News

Families begin relocating from public housing complex

Baker Heights is in need of repairs deemed to costly to make, and will be demolished and replaced.

Trail work by juvenile offenders builds resumes, confidence

Kayak Point trails were built out this year by groups from Denney Juvenile Justice Center.

Small fire breaks out at haunted house in Everett

Plastic that was supposed to be noncombustable was sitting next to a hot lightbulb.

Rules of the road for ‘extra-fast pedestrians’ — skateboarders

State traffic law defines them as pedestrians, and yet they are often in the middle of the street.

Distress beacon leads rescuers to Pacific Crest Trail hikers

Two men in their 20s had encountered snow and waited two nights for a helicopter rescue.

City of Everett to give $400K to a nonprofit housing project

The city expects to enter a contract with HopeWorks, an affiliate of Housing Hope.

Everett mayoral campaign is one of the priciest ever

Many campaign donors are giving to both Cassie Franklin and Judy Tuohy.

Some damage undone: Thousands of heroin needles removed

Hand Up Project volunteers cleaned up a patch of woods that some of them had occupied near Everett.

Volunteers clean up homeless camp infested with garbage

The organization’s founder used to live and do drugs in the same woods.

Most Read