Consuming peanuts during pregnancy may lower offspring’s risk of peanut allergies

As the rate of childhood peanut allergies in the United States population has more than tripled from 0.4% in 1997 to 1.4% in 2008, it was widely recommended (until 2008) for some expecting mothers to abstain from eating peanuts during their pregnancy and while nursing. A recent 2013 study published in JAMA Pediatrics helps illustrate the positive effects of a mother’s consumption of peanuts/tree nuts. This study indicates that a higher consumption of peanuts and tree nuts during pregnancy was associated with a lower offspring risk of developing the corresponding allergies.

In the Western hemisphere, peanut allergies affects 1% – 2% of the entire population, typically beginning during early childhood. Previous research has pointed at the mother’s consumption of peanuts during pregnancy and while nursing as greatly affecting whether the child will develop peanut allergies. A 2010 study with 503 infant participants demonstrated this association. Likewise, a much smaller (n = 43) South African study also indicated this association between a mother’s peanut consumption and the child developing these allergies.

New research indicates expecting mother’s peanut consumption can be helpful

The 2013 JAMA Pediatrics study paints a very different picture. The cohort study (n = 10,907) demonstrated that a child has a significantly lower risk of developing peanut/tree nut allergies if the nonallergic mother consumes peanuts/tree nuts more often (five times a month compared to less than one time a month) during the pregnancy. This group of women was also more likely to introduce peanuts/tree nuts at a much younger age then allergic mothers. While there are potential limitations in this survey-cohort study (due to the exclusion of paternal allergies, other diet considerations and offspring introduction of peanuts/tree nuts at different ages), the authors indicated that these limitations were statistically controlled for. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology supports this idea by indicating that it might not be a mother’s consumption of peanuts during pregnancy that correlates to a child’s allergic state but, instead, environmental exposure.

Previous research was thought to be relatively conclusive, causing the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2000 to recommend that pregnant mothers who had a family history of peanut allergies avoid their consumption for fear of their offspring developing the allergy. By 2008, this recommendation was withdrawn due to new studies indicating the opposite. The authors of the 2013 study indicate that this is the first human study to their knowledge that illustrates how a mother’s consumption of peanuts or tree nuts is correlated with a reduced risk of these allergies in their offspring, but more controlled studies are needed to replicate and verify these findings.

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3 Responses to “Consuming peanuts during pregnancy may lower offspring’s risk of peanut allergies”

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