For fear of their child developing asthmatic or allergic tendencies as early as during pregnancy, many expectant mothers refrain from consuming food that may trigger allergies – including peanuts and edible nuts such as hazelnuts and walnuts. However, this means that they are also refraining from consuming foodstuffs that promote health and that are rich in unsaturated fatty acids, fibre, vitamins and minerals. The fact that refraining from consuming allergenic foodstuffs does not exert a preventative effect, this fear thus being unfounded, is shown by a Danish study published in 2012. In this study, the correlation between the mother’s consumption of peanuts, as well as hazelnuts and walnuts, during pregnancy, and allergic conditions in early and late childhood, was examined. The researchers evaluated Danish birth data. This study was conducted from 1996 to 2002, surveying approx. 60,000 pregnant Danish women. They were interviewed on the telephone during the 12th and 30th weeks of their pregnancy, respectively, and, in the 25th week of pregnancy, they completed a questionnaire on their eating habits. In addition to this, a survey was carried out following birth, when the infant was between 6 and 18 months old. When the children turned seven, the mothers were interviewed again. The results show that children of mothers who consumed peanuts one or more times per week during their pregnancy suffered from asthma significantly less frequently than children whose mothers ate no peanuts at all. The increased consumption of walnuts and hazelnuts similarly resulted in fewer diagnoses of asthma and fewer instances of hay fever. This may be attributed to the valuable nutrient profile of the nuts. Precisely to which nutrient or which combination of nutrients the positive effect on the development of the immune system of the growing foetus may be ascribed has not yet been proven and requires further research. Nevertheless, the study suggests that women should not reduce their consumption of nuts during pregnancy. Instead, the consumption of peanuts, hazelnuts and walnuts may even reduce the risk of developing an allergic condition.
Maslova, E et al.: Peanut and tree nut consumption during pregnancy and allergic disease in children – should mothers decrease their intake? Longitudinal evidence from the Danish National Birth Cohort. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2012, Sep. (724-732)