Worried about the increase in severe peanut and tree nut allergies in children, many prospective moms have avoided eating nuts during pregnancy.  However, contrary to what might seem to be the logical thing to do, a new analysis from data in the Nurses’ Health Study suggests that mothers can eat nuts during pregnancy without fear of causing nut allergies in their babies.  In fact, eating nuts at least five times a month decreased the likelihood of having a baby with a nut allergy almost 70%.  The study supports the hypothesis that early allergen exposure increases tolerance and lowers risk of childhood food allergy.

Researchers studied 8,205 mothers who were not allergic to nuts and their children born from 1990 to 1994, and found 140 cases of peanut or tree nut allergy among the offspring.  After adjusting for other factors, they found that mothers who consumed nuts at least five times a month were almost 70 percent less likely to have a baby with a nut allergy than those who ate nuts less than once a month.

Michael C. Young, MD, one of the researchers, said, “Previously, women were concerned that eating nuts during pregnancy probably would lead to an allergic baby, but our data dispels that. A woman who is pregnant can eat peanuts without fear that she will have a baby allergic to peanuts.”  So enjoy!  Grab a handful of nuts and know that you are doing the right thing for your baby!

The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics online on December 23, 2013, and reported the following day in the New York TImes by Nicholas Balakar.  Both links are given below.

A. Lindsay Frazier, MD, ScM; Carlos A. Camargo Jr, MD, DrPH; Susan Malspeis, MS; Walter C. Willett, MD, DrPH; Michael C. Young, MD7Prospective Study of Peripregnancy Consumption of Peanuts or Tree Nuts by Mothers and the Risk of Peanut or Tree Nut Allergy in Their Offspring.  JAMA Pediatr. Published online December 23, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.

Nicholas Balakar, “Eating Nuts in Pregnancy Tied to Lower Allergy Risk in Offspring.”  New York Times, December 24, 2013.