By Roy Benaroch, MD
In a paper published this week, Danish researchers looked at about 62,000 mother-baby pairs. The families completed a food-frequency diary to determine how often peanuts or tree nuts were consumed during pregnancy. Then they looked at parents’ reports of asthma and allergy symptoms at 18 months and 7 years. The researchers found that increased peanut and tree nut consumption during pregnancy was correlated with decreased allergic problems in children.
Older advice had suggested that pregnant women avoid certain foods to help prevent allergy. In 2008, the AAP reversed this advice, publishing a review that determined there really wasn’t any good evidence to suggest that delaying or avoiding foods would help. Since then, further studies have actually pushed the pendulum the other way: earlier introduction of foods for pregnant women and babies may actually prevent allergies.
There are still some foods that pregnant women need to avoid, mostly to prevent infections and toxin exposures. But preventing allergy isn’t a valid reason to avoid anything. Of course, if mom is actually allergic herself, the food needs to be avoided.
The findings of this Danish study are only applicable to children without allergies. Kids who are allergic to foods like peanuts or tree nuts need to strictly avoid eating these items and follow their doctor’s advice on ways to safely retest or re-challenge children safely. Though we are learning that under certain controlled circumstances some exposures may help children outgrow allergy to egg or peanut, this needs to be done carefully and under supervision.