Eating Peanuts During Pregnancy Lowers Allergy Risk for Child

Peanuts on CounterDespite previous recommendations that pregnant women avoid peanuts to reduce the risk of allergies and asthma in their children, new research from the Dana-Farber Children’s Cancer Center in Boston, Massachusetts suggests that women who are not allergic to nuts or legumes and who eat peanuts during pregnancy lower the risk of their child developing a food allergy to peanuts.

Food allergies, including allergies to nuts and peanuts, have been on the rise in recent years. Tree nut allergies are one of the most common food allergies in children and adults. Both tree nut and peanut allergies can cause a severe and potentially fatal allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. The cause of the increase in tree nut and peanut allergies is currently unknown.

For the present study, which was published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, a research team led by Dr. A. Lindsay Frazier sought to determine whether eating peanuts during pregnancy by mothers was associated with the risk of a peanut or tree nut allergy in their children.

To determine a link, if any, between consuming peanuts during pregnancy and later food allergy risk, the researchers studied 10,907 participants in the Growing Up Today Study 2 who were born between January 1, 1990 and December 31, 1994. The mothers of the participants had reported their diet during, or shortly before or after, their pregnancy with the participant as part of the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study II.

In 2006, the participants reported physician-diagnosed food allergies. The mothers of the participants were also asked to confirm the diagnosis and to provide available medical records and allergy test results. Two board-certified pediatricians including a board-certified allergist/immunologist reviewed the data.

Out of 8,205 children, the researchers identified 308 food allergy diagnoses including 140 peanut or tree nut allergies.

The researchers discovered that, among the mother who did not themselves have nut or peanut allergies and who consumed peanuts during pregnancy, the risk of developing a tree nut or peanut allergy was significantly lower among their children. Furthermore, children whose mothers ate peanuts at least five times a week had the lowest risk of developing a food allergy to peanuts or tree nuts. In other words, nonallergic women who consume peanuts during pregnancy lower their children’s risk of developing a tree nut or peanut allergy.

The same association is not true for children of women who have tree nut or peanut allergies.

This research indicates that the majority of pregnant women should not restrict their diets during pregnancy. Women should also not avoid consuming peanuts during pregnancy as a way to prevent asthma or allergies. In fact, the opposite appears true: Mothers who eat peanuts during pregnancy may decrease their children’s risk of food allergies.

Dr. Ruchi Gupta of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine writes in an accompanying editorial to the present study:

“For now though, guidelines stand: pregnant women should not eliminate nuts from their diet as peanuts are a good source of protein and also provide folic acid, which could potentially prevent both neural tube defects and nut sensitization.”

Women should eat a variety of nutritious foods during pregnancy. And, as this study suggests, nonallergic women may want to considered eating peanuts a few times a week to help reduce their children’s risk of developing food allergies to tree nuts and peanuts.


Eating Peanuts in Pregnancy Lowers Allergy Risk for Child:
Prospective Study of Peripregnancy Consumption of Peanuts or Tree Nuts by Mothers and the Risk of Peanut or Tree Nut Allergy in Their Offspring:

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