Going for Nuts During Pregnancy

Nut allergies in children less likely if mothers ate nuts during pregnancy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Nut allergies can be challenging to manage in children and dangerous if the allergy is severe. But it's possible mom's diet could play a role in her child's risk.

A recent study found that women who ate more nuts during their pregnancy were less likely to have children with nut allergies than women who ate fewer nuts.

The findings appeared to be true primarily for women who did not have a nut allergy of their own.

The findings were based on a long-term study involving thousands of children.

"Discuss your pregnancy diet with your OB/GYN."

This study, led by A. Lindsay Frazier, MD, ScM, of the Department of Pediatric Oncology at Dana-Farber Children’s Cancer Center in Boston, looked at the risk of nut allergies in children based on whether their mothers ate peanuts during pregnancy.

The researchers used data from 8,205 children who were born between January 1990 and December 1994 and involved in a long-term study.

All the children's mothers had reported what they had eaten before and during their pregnancy.

Then the children reported whether they had a doctor-diagnosed peanut or tree nut allergy in 2006, which was confirmed by the mothers and through medical records.

A total of 308 children out of the full group had any kind of food allergy, which included 140 children with a peanut or tree nut allergy.

The researchers found that the children of 8,059 women who ate more nuts while pregnant were less likely to have a nut allergy.

The children of women who ate nuts at least five times a month during pregnancy were about 60 percent less likely to have a nut allergy compared to the children of women who ate nuts less than once a month.

However, this finding only appeared to hold true for children of mothers who were not allergic to peanuts or nuts themselves.

If the mother had a nut allergy, there may have been a higher likelihood of nut allergy in her child, but chance could not be ruled out as a reason for this possible result.

"Among mothers without peanut/tree nut allergy, higher peri-pregnancy [during pregnancy] consumption of peanut/tree nut was associated with lower risk of peanut/tree nut allergy in their offspring," the researchers wrote.

"Our study supports the hypothesis that early allergen exposure increases tolerance and lowers risk of childhood food allergy," they wrote.

In other words, the researchers found evidence that exposing children early — before birth — to a possible allergen (nuts) reduced the children's likelihood of developing an allergy to that substance.

This study was published December 23 in the journal Pediatrics. The research was funded by Food Allergy Research and Education in New York.

One author receives royalties for a book he authored titled The Peanut Allergy Answer Book. The other authors reported no potential conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
December 23, 2013
Last Updated:
December 30, 2013