Good news for the pregnant nut-lovers out there. A US study of 8000 cute offspring revealed that kids with non-allergic mothers who ate nuts five times a week or more during pregnancy had the lowest risk of nut allergies.
Boston Children’s Hospital researchers found that children born to mothers who snacked on nuts on a near daily basis while pregnant were about 30 percent less likely to develop peanut or tree nut allergies, compared to those born to mothers who avoided nuts during pregnancy.
The findings contradict previous advice that eating nuts during pregnancy either had zero effect on the child-to-be’s chances of having a nut allergy, or perhaps even increased their susceptibility.
In the 90s, US mothers were advised to avoid all nuts if pregnant or breastfeeding, and to keep their children away from peanuts until they were three years of age. This conservative advice was based on a lack of information about the effects of eating nuts during pregnancy. Despite the ban, childhood nut allergies did not decrease.
This new study tells us that there is an association between eating nuts while pregnant and keeping nut allergies at bay and that there is no need for mothers-to-be to avoid nuts all together.
Once baby is born things get a bit more complicated. ”There is strong evidence to suggest that nut allergy doesn’t develop until after birth and that it is exposure of the infant’s skin to nut protein that is most important in the development of allergy,” says Dr Adam Fox, consultant children’s allergist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS foundation trust.
Everything in moderation?
Dr Fox says that while the medical profession is still coming to grips with how nut allergies work, mums-to-be should neither avoid nuts nor actively eat them. Whatever that means. Everything in moderation, I suppose?
“The take-home message is that the previous concerns or fears of the ingestion of nuts during pregnancy causing subsequent peanut or nut allergy is really unfounded,” Boston Children’s Hospital’s attending physician in allergy and immunology Michael Young said.
To nut or not to nut?
While the apparent benefits of pregnant nut-eating are music to the ears of squirrelly types, it’s all slightly confusing, too. It’s a bit like the alcohol during pregnancy is okay/not okay information. Make up your mind, researchers!
You want the very best for your teensy offspring, but how do you know which studies you should base your parenting decisions on? Is it a case of if in doubt, leave it out? Tricky, no?
In the case of nuts vs kids-to-be it seems that a handful of nuts each week during pregnancy is really not going to hurt anyone, and, indeed, may even offer some anti-allergy benefits. The jury is still nutting out what those benefits might be.