Just in time to make you worry about that Halloween candy you ate last night, a new study reports a possible connection between eating peanuts during pregnancy and a higher risk of allergies in children. The study, from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, evaluated over 500 infants with symptoms of allergies to milk and/or eggs, and positive allergy tests for these ingredients. Kids with milk and egg allergies are at higher risk of peanut allergies, and 140 of the kids tested were found to have allergic sensitivity to peanut proteins as well.
The mother’s peanut consumption was found to be a predictor of the child’s positive peanut allergy test.
This connection isn’t new. In 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that women whose children were at risk of peanut allergies avoid peanuts during pregnancy. But in 2008, this recommendation was reversed due to lack of conclusive evidence.
So what’s a pregnant woman to do?
Clearly, no one really knows enough about allergies to make a conclusive call here. Even the doctors in charge of this study acknowledge the confusion. While they see this as a significant finding, they don’t suggest that pregnant women avoid eating peanuts as a result. The prevailing advice on allergies has been to avoid allergenic foods, but some studies explore the idea that the exact opposite may be true—early exposure to allergens may actually serve to desensitize children, even those from allergenic families.
The peanut allergy thing stressed me out a lot when I was pregnant. I hadn’t known about the recommendation to avoid peanuts early on, and I remember showing up at my in-laws with a protein bar with nuts in it. Allergies run in my husband’s family and my sister in law had been following the advice to avoid peanuts. I stopped eating them then throughout my pregnancy. Many special requests were made at restaurants in attempts to avoid peanut oil or other peanut products. I still have no guarantee that my requests were granted (especially by the Sichuan restaurant where limited communication was possible) but between two pregnancies and breastfeeding phases, I ended up avoiding peanuts for about five years. I’ve recently come back to them and remembered what I was missing. I love peanuts. Too bad my kids have so many allergenic friends and I’m nervous to keep them around the house!
Have you been avoiding anything to try to prevent allergies?