Should Pregnant Women Eat Peanuts to Reduce Childhood Allergies?

When food that we eat could potentially kill us, it’s tragic. Such is the case of peanut allergies in U.S. children that has become a great public health concern because of its increasing numbers and severity. According to medical studies, at least 18% of kids are allergic to food and 3 million American children have allergies to peanuts or tree nuts.

Food allergies in infants may present as a severe rash, bloody stool, poor weight gain, swelling or vomiting. These allergies are usually acquired during the 1st or 2d year of life. Allergies to cow’s milk and hen’s eggs are typically outgrown during childhood or adolescence, whereas peanut and tree nut allergies are more likely to continue into adulthood. The danger with peanuts is that it can cause severe breathing problems and a sudden drop in blood pressure which could potentially cause death.

Eating peanuts during pregnancy has always been controversial. Some schools of thought state that pregnant women should avoid eating peanuts to decrease the chance of allergies in their children. Other studies felt that there was no association with peanut allergies and a pregnant women’s diet.

Well now there’s a recent medical study from Denmark that states something completely different. According to the study, pregnant women should actually eat peanuts to reduce the risk of peanut allergies in their unborn.

According to the study, 60,000 pregnant women were evaluated along with their children until age 7 to look at the association between eating peanuts and the development of allergies. The results were surprising. There was a 25% decrease in the number of babies that developed allergies by 18 months and a 30% decrease by age 7. They concluded that pregnant women eating peanuts one or more times a week reduced the risk of the development of childhood peanut allergies.  The researchers were bold enough to state that pregnant women should not avoid eating peanuts.

So, should U.S. pregnant women eat peanuts weekly to avoid future childhood allergies? It’s certainly food for thought.

Can a Pregnant Mom Give Her Unborn Child a Food Allergy?

Can a pregnant woman manipulate her diet and avoid giving her unborn a peanut-based-allergy?  At present the answer is no according to medical studies but the concept holds promise for the future.

Approximately one percent of our US population is affected by peanut allergies whose symptoms range from mild itching to full blown asthma and life-threatening shock. The good news is that 25 percent of children grow “out of it” by age 7 but that leaves the remaining 75 percent at risk for future complications. Peanut allergies fall into three categories: (1) those who inherited it from family genes; (2) those who obtained it through direct contact and (3) those who obtain it through the environment.  When medical studies documented that babies can become sensitized (that is, capable of having an allergic reaction) either late in the third trimester or immediately at birth, the most common response was for the pregnant mom to avoid eating foods that might trigger this reaction. Mothers and fathers with allergies, siblings with a history of asthma were considered a high-risk as was their unborn child or sibling.   

According to medical studies, pregnant mothers who avoided eating peanuts reduced the risk of their offspring’s allergies but did not prevent it. In another study, over 14,000 preschool children were studied and it was determined that despite their mothers’ consumption of peanuts, there was no association with peanut allergies. Therefore eating a peanut butter sandwich while pregnant will not harm your baby. At present, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend a peanut-free diet during pregnancy or while breastfeeding to prevent peanut allergies. If you have avoided eating peanuts, are you compromising your unborn baby’s development? Probably not because peanuts are not considered an essential part of the American diet.

At present, the jury is still out regarding treatment methods for preventing peanut allergies but at least it has been established that the consumption of peanut butter by a pregnant woman has no bearing on the cause or effect of her offsprings’ allergies.

Do you know how to anticipate and manage the unexpected events that could occur during your pregnancy? You will if you purchase The Smart Mother’s Guide to a Better Pregnancy available on Amazon.com or wherever books are sold.