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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Peanuts in the news

Some latest research on peanuts and peanut allergies is quite interesting.  Researchers studied pregnant women who ate peanuts during their pregnancy and those that didn’t.  Then they looked at their children to see if the children had peanut allergies.  They found the more peanuts a pregnant woman ate during her pregnancy, the less likely her child was to have a peanut or nut allergy. 

The study in JAMA Pediatrics  followed nearly 11,000 women throughout the women's pregnancy, and their offspring from birth to adolescence.  Pregnant women who ate peanuts and other nuts five or more times a month had children with the lowest chance of having peanut or nut allergies.  However, these pregnant women also ate more fruits and vegetables than other women in the study.  Additionally, they fed their children nuts before age 1.  So maybe it was the fruits and vegetables or the early introduction of nuts that led to less nut allergies. 

The authors of the study stated, “Our study supports the hypotheses that early allergen exposure increases the likelihood of tolerance and thereby lowers the risk of childhood food allergy.” 

There has been an increase in reported peanut allergies among children.  In 1997 about .5 percent of children were allergic to peanuts.  By 2010, this increased three fold to 1.4 percent of children.  According to an editorial by Ruchi Gupta of Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, about 1 in 13 children have a food allergy with about 40% of these have a severe or even life-threatening allergy.

There has been confusing recommendations given to pregnant women about peanuts and nuts.  The American Academy of Pediatrics in 2000 actually recommended pregnant women avoid eating nuts while pregnant or breastfeeding.  Then children were to be kept away from nuts until age 3.  This was reversed in 2008 when the Academy said there was no reason to avoid nuts either in pregnancy or early childhood.

Dr. Gupta notes there are studies that show that women who avoided nuts in pregnancy actually increased the child’s nut allergy risk.  So much for the recommendations of the experts to avoid nuts in pregnancy as they recommended for 8 years.

But others warn the study doesn’t prove eating nuts during pregnancy can prevent a nut allergy.  More research needs to be done to verify the findings. 

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