While a handful of nuts can be a great snack loaded with healthy fats, protein, fiber and folate, many moms wonder if eating nuts while they are pregnant will lead to their baby develop an allergy. Our guest author this week, Robyn Goldberg, RD, CES-D, gives her expert insight and solid evidence to dispel the common misconceptions surrounding how the consumption of nuts during pregnancy impacts the propensity for future nut allergies in our children.
How does a mothers eating nuts* during pregnancy impact her child’s likelihood of developing an allergy to nuts?
*For purposes of this article, “nuts” will be used to include peanuts and tree nuts unless specifically stated otherwise.
Nut Allergies by the Numbers
In the United States, the incidence of nut allergies had more than tripled between 1997 and 2008 – from 0.4% to 1.4% of children in a survey reported in JAMA Pediatrics. This realization may have been the catalyst for some very important subsequent research.
More Nuts, Less Allergies?
A February 2014 study conducted by Dr. Lindsay Frazer, M.D. from Dana-Farber Children’s Cancer Center in Boston and her team was reported in JAMA Pediatrics. It found that the likelihood of children developing nut allergies was reduced owing to two factors: mothers are not allergic and mothers-to-be consumed nuts freely (5 or more times per week) during their pregnancies.
Two other significant observations were made as well: the initial allergic reaction in children generally is observed the first time the nuts are consumed; if a child is allergic to peanuts, s/he also is likely to be allergic to tree nuts.
Dr. Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago explained that Dr. Frazer and her team revealed that non-allergic women need not restrict their nut consumption during or just prior to pregnancy. Also, the risk of nut allergy in children born to mothers who do not have nut allergies is low. Further, early exposure of children to nuts increased the probability that they will tolerate nuts, i.e., the risk of childhood allergic reaction to nuts is reduced by early exposure to them. Additional studies need to be done to see if the results will be duplicated.
Nutrition in a Nutshell
There is no question that all nuts are great sources of the nutrients protein, fiber and folic acid, so pregnant women should not want to exclude them from their diets unless allergies are present. Nut butters provide an alternative way to consume nuts before, during, and after pregnancy…Enjoy.
Gupta, R. “To Eat or Not to Eat What Foods Are Safe to Consume During Pregnancy?” JAMA Pediatrics 168, no. 3 (2014): 109-110.
Frazier, A. L, “Prospective Study of Peripregnancy Consumption of Peanuts or Tree Nuts by Mothers and the Risk of Peanut or Tree Nut Allergy in Their Offspring.” JAMA Pediatrics 168, no. 2 (2014): 156-162.
About Robyn L. Goldberg, RD, CES-D
Robyn Goldberg is a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified eating disorder registered dietitian supervisor, certified intuitive eating counselor and a Health at Every Size® (HAES) clinician. For the last 23 years, Robyn Goldberg has had a private practice in Beverly Hills, CA, where she specializes in medical conditions, eating disorders, disordered eating, dual diagnosis, pre-pregnancy nutrition and women seeking fertility treatment.
Robyn is a nationally renowned contributing author registered dietitian nutritionist. She has been quoted as an expert in various publications including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Diabetes Forecast, Shape Magazine, Fitness, Oxygen, Life & Style, Natural Solutions, Beverly Hills Weekly and Today’s Dietitian. In addition, Robyn has also served as an eating disorder specialist on the nationally televised show “The Insider” and an expert on The Associated Press (AP). For more nutrition and diet insights, visit her at Askaboutfood.com
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