Peanut allergies seem to be rampant in kids these days, right? And the idea that eating something with nuts could cause your child to go into anaphylactic shock, and could possibly even kill your kid, is so incredibly scary. When I was pregnant, I heard both theories: DO eat peanuts, so your baby won't have peanut allergies, and DON'T eat peanuts, so your baby won't have peanut allergies. My doctor said it was fine to eat peanuts as there seemed to be no evidence either that it would help or harm the baby. So I would snack on peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwiches on whole wheat when I got a sweets craving in hopes that I wasn't actually contributing to my baby's future allergies.
He's 17 months old now and thankfully has no peanut allergies. In fact, he can't get enough of creamy peanut butter. Well, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, my eating nuts while I was pregnant could have been a factor in my son building up a tolerance for nuts after he was born. As CNN reports, "The children of women who regularly ate peanuts or tree nuts during pregnancy appear to be at lower risk for nut allergies than other kids. The effect seemed to be strongest in women who ate the most peanuts or tree nuts—five or more servings per week, according to the study, which controlled for factors such as family history of nut allergies and other dietary practices."
This is in stark contrast to earlier studies that indicated that nut consumption during pregnancy either didn't have any effect or actually raised the risk of allergies in children.The authors of the latest study say previous research was based on less reliable data and conflicted with more recent research suggesting that early exposure to nuts can reduce the risk of developing allergies to them.
More research will need to be conducted before a broad recommendation will be made by the American Academy of Pediatrics. However, in 2008, citing growing evidence that early exposure to nuts could be beneficial, the AAP retracted guidance suggesting that parents withhold tree nuts from children under the age of three, saying there was "no convincing evidence" for delaying their introduction.
Just this year, new recommendations from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (covered in the Parents News Now blog back in March) urged parents to introduce highly allergenic foods, including nuts, fish and eggs, to babies as young as 6 months, saying that early exposure may lower the risk of the allergy.
The bottom line is that it's important to read up, and be well-informed, but don't drive yourself, well, nuts, because the medical news seems to always be changing. So don't blame yourself if you do something that they say is good for your baby now, that they may discover later is in fact not-so-good. There's only so much you can do. Don't start the mommy guilt before you even have your baby!
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Image of pregnant woman eating peanut butter courtesy of Shutterstock.