In 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics officially recommended that women whose family history indicated that their children might be at increased risk of developing allergies should avoid peanut products when pregnant. Two years ago, the AAP officially withdrew that recommendation due to the fact that there was very little scientific evidence to support it.
While the jury is still out on the subject of peanuts while pregnant, a new study indicates that perhaps the AAP had it right the first time and that pregnant moms with a family history of allergies should avoid peanuts.
The latest study involved over 500 infants aged three to 15 months who had already exhibited likely milk or egg allergies or significant eczema and a positive allergy test to milk or egg. While none of the infants had previously been diagnosed with peanut allergies, 140 of them were found to have strong sensitivity to peanuts as determined by blood tests. And based on dietary information provided by the mothers, peanut consumption during pregnancy was found to be a significant predictor of this test result.
Lead researcher Scott H. Sicherer, MD, of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, says that while these findings aren’t the final word on the subject, they do seem to back up the AAP’s original advice on avoiding peanuts while pregnant.
Researchers in recent years have been uncertain about the role of peanut consumption during pregnancy on the risk of peanut allergy in infants. While our study does not definitively indicate that pregnant women should not eat peanut products during pregnancy, it highlights the need for further research in order make recommendations about dietary restrictions.
I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for a parent to live in fear of peanuts and am thankful my own child is allergy-free. But as an interested and concerned bystander, I am also confused. New studies contradict old studies and nobody seems to know why peanut allergies are so common now and what can be done about it.
For example, several years ago, a study out of Duke University of peanut-allergic children, found that the majority of them became tolerant of peanut protein simply by being exposed to gradually increasing amounts of it over a period of time. A small study out of Cambridge University had similar results.
Another study found that children in London were almost ten times as likely to have peanut allergies than children Tel Aviv. This, researchers theorize, has to do with the fact that in Israel, children are commonly fed a peanut butter-base snack called Bamba from the time they are infants.
So, which is it? Early exposure causes peanut allergies? Or prevents and cures them?
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