A new study released by Boston Children’s Hospital published in the journal of Pediatrics has illustrated the effects of maternal nut consumption and the lowered risk of developing a peanut allergy in children. The risk of developing a peanut allergy is at an all time high in the United States and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) had previously endorsed recommendations that mothers should not consume peanuts during pregnancy. In light of the substantial increase in peanut allergies over the following years that recommendation was rescinded in 2008.
The study involved a large group of children, where the data was obtained from the records of 8,205 children. The researchers positively identified cases of peanut or tree nut allergies and examined the diets of each child’s mother — specifically, peanut and nut consumption — during the peri-pregnancy period and compared them with the dietary habits of pregnant women whose children did not develop a peanut allergy. It was found that the rate of a demonstrated peanut allergy was significantly lower among children in the study whose mothers ate peanuts during the peri-pregnancy period.
“Our study showed increased peanut consumption by pregnant mothers who weren’t nut allergic was associated with lower risk of peanut allergy in their offspring,” said the study’s senior author Michael Young, MD, of Boston Children’s Division of Allergy and Immunology. “Assuming she isn’t allergic to peanuts, there’s no reason for a woman to avoid peanuts during pregnancy.”
“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. “It was clear that a new approach was needed, opening the door for new research.”
“The data are not strong enough to prove a cause-and-effect relationship. Therefore, we can’t say with certainty that eating more peanuts during pregnancy will prevent peanut allergy in children. But we can say that peanut consumption during pregnancy doesn’t cause peanut allergy in children,” Young says. “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.”
A. Lindsay Frazier, Carlos A. Camargo Jr, Susan Malspeis, Walter C. Willett, Michael C. Young. Prospective Study of Peripregnancy Consumption of Peanuts or Tree Nuts by Mothers and the Risk of Peanut or Tree Nut Allergy in Their Offspring. JAMA Pediatrics, 2013 DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.4139