In a study involving nearly 62,000 Danish mothers, researchers found that the mother’s consumption of peanuts during pregnancy affected their children’s likelihood of developing allergies or asthma.
The study, led by Dr. Ekaterina Maslova, involved surveys of 61,908 Danish mothers whose children were born between 1996 and 2002. By comparing the mothers’ survey data with their children’s medical records, they were able to examine the relationship between maternal diet and food allergies. At the age of 18 months, 15% of the children whose mothers ate peanuts at least once per week while pregnant had asthma, compared to nearly 19% of those whose mothers never ate peanuts. The researchers concluded that the children of moms who ate peanuts and tree nuts frequently during pregnancy were 20% less likely to develop allergies.
The results support the reversal of a longstanding recommendation that pregnant women avoid eating nuts while pregnancy. According to Dr. Todd Mahr, a pediatric allergist who was not involved in the study, “There’s some mixed data out there and this current study is showing that maybe there might be a benefit to your child in having less asthma later on if you continue to just eat the way you’re still eating and not avoid (nuts).”
Nuts and Pregnancy
Four years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics withdrew its recommendation that women should avoid consuming peanuts during pregnancy to avoid causing their unborn child to develop food allergies. In 2010, the UK health agency did the same. Still, the fear of peanut allergies leads many pregnant women to steer clear of peanuts and other nuts.
This new study does not prove that eating nuts could protect against asthma and allergies. Dr. Maslova explains that the antioxidants, fatty acids, or vitamin E in nuts may play a role. She explained “We’re looking at food intake, so we can’t say this is the one nutrient that’s driving this association.”