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Eating Peanuts in Pregnancy May Protect Kids From Nut Allergies

Update Date: Dec 24, 2013 05:20 PM EST
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Expectant mothers who eat lots of nuts during pregnancy are less likely to have children with peanut or tree nut allergies.

A new study of 8,205 children revealed that children who nonallergic mothers who ate nuts five or more times a week had the lowest risk of developing nut allergies. However, this benefit was not found in children of mothers who had a peanut or tree nut allergy.

"Our study supports the hypothesis that early allergen exposure increases the likelihood of tolerance and thereby lowers the risk of childhood food allergy. Additional prospective studies are needed to replicate this finding," researchers wrote in the study. "In the meantime, our data support the recent decisions to rescind recommendations that all mothers avoid P/TN during pregnancy and breastfeeding."

Experts said that the latest findings suggest that expectant mothers should not avoid eating nuts.

"Frazier and colleagues report a strong inverse association between peripregnancy nut intake and the risk of nut allergy in children among mothers who did not have nut allergies," Dr. Ruchi Gupta of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who was not part of the study, wrote in an accompanying editorial.

"Although the dietary surveys were not specific for the actual dates of pregnancy, these findings support recent recommendations that woman should not restrict their diets during pregnancy. Certainly, women who are allergic to nuts should continue avoiding nuts," Gupta added.

"For now, though, guidelines stand: pregnant women should not eliminate nuts from their diet as peanuts are a good source of protein and also provide folic acid, which could potentially prevent both neural tube defects and nut sensitization. So, to provide guidance in how to respond to the age-old question 'To eat or not to eat?' mothers-to-be should feel free to curb their cravings with a dollop of peanut butter!" he concluded.

The findings are published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

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