Food Allergy Research

Does Early Exposure to Nuts Lower a Child’s Allergy Risk?

ImageAre children more likely to develop a peanut or tree nut allergy if their mothers eat nuts during pregnancy or while nursing? Over the years, a number of studies have attempted to answer this question, but the results have been inconclusive. According to a new FARE-funded study, eating nuts during pregnancy does not cause food allergies in children. Further, although more studies are needed, it is possible that eating nuts may prevent a child from developing a food allergy.

In an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics on December 23, a research team affiliated with Harvard Medical School reported on their study, which suggests that mothers who do not have allergies and who eat nuts during pregnancy may lower their children’s risk of developing a peanut or tree nut allergy. The study, which was funded by FARE, received considerable media coverage.

The team, led by Dr. A. Lindsay Frazier, looked at the history of 8,205 participants in the Growing Up Today Study 2 (GUTS2) – children who were born between 1990 and 1994. The researchers reviewed records of the mothers’ diet immediately before and during pregnancy, and shortly after the infants’ birth. Of this group, 308 children had a food allergy, including 140 cases of peanut or tree nut allergy.

The incidence of peanut or nut allergies was significantly lower among the children of mothers who did not have food allergies themselves and who ate nuts at least five times per month compared to those who ate these foods less than once per month. “Our study supports the hypothesis that early allergen exposure increases the likelihood of tolerance and thereby lowers the risk of childhood food allergy,” the researchers concluded. They noted, however, that additional studies are needed. “The data are not strong enough to prove a cause-and-effect relationship,” commented one of the authors, Dr. Michael Young. “Therefore, we can’t say with certainty that eating more peanuts during pregnancy will prevent allergy in children. But we can say that peanut consumption during pregnancy doesn’t cause peanut allergy in children.”

A study that should shed more light on this issue is currently underway. The LEAP (for “Learning Early About Peanut Allergy”) Study, conducted by Dr. Gideon Lack and colleagues at King’s College London, has been following 640 children since infancy to determine whether or not exposure to peanuts early in life can prevent the development of peanut allergy. This study, which is co-funded by the National Institutes of Health and FARE, should be completed in 2014.

75 thoughts on “Does Early Exposure to Nuts Lower a Child’s Allergy Risk?

  1. I know the scientists will say that all of the above comments are anecdotal, but I think this pretty much proves that this study is not worth much in terms of what is really happening with our children. I agree with Heather…why are they not looking at the food supply, the GMO’s in our food as a possible link???

  2. For the development and growth of the baby, it is essential to take healthy nutrients and nuts during pregnancy. Nuts contain the required fats, vitamins, nutrients and calories that every pregnant woman required. Among those nuts, almonds have the great choice to eat during pregnancy and they come under the healthy snacks list. this article provides you more information about taking nuts during pregnancy

  3. I ate cashews my whole pregnancy with baby number 2. Guess what? He has severe anaphylactic reaction to cashews. Baby number 1 I never ate cashews during pregnancy and he does not have the allergy.

    1. I ate peanut butter my entire pregnancy by the jarful. Since, I do not eat meat that was much of my protein. We had our son tested around 1 year old for other food allergies becuase if digestivd issues.His peanut allergy was at the top of the scales at that time. We had not exposed him to specifically peanut butter but it wasn’t out of reach. We believe he must have been born with it.

      1. I ate peanut butter during my entire pregnancy. I breastfed exclusively for over 4 months. My daughter had milk allergies which she outgrew but was tested for nut allergies at 2 and was and still is off the charts with the allergy.

  4. In my own experience with three children, I don’t think it made a difference. First pregnancy and while breastfeeding, I ate lots of peanuts and peanut butter. My son is severely allergic. For the second pregnancy, they said avoid the things that the first child is allergic to. Son #2 has no food allergies so it seemed to have worked. With son #3 I avoided allergens, but he got food allergies same as #1. The new guidelines for feeding kids nuts seem crazy to me. If my three month old baby got hives from breastmilk just because I ate cereal for breakfast, I’d have killed him for sure if I gave him a snack of nuts directly. My two kids who look alike both have asthma and food allergies. Clearly a large genetic component, as we had the same house, same environment, etc. My bet is on genetic damage of the parents getting passed to the kids. That damage could be from medicine we took or food we ate, but the kids clearly come pre-programmed for the allergies. It’s not something you do during pregnancy or infancy.

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