Women who eat peanuts during pregnancy may reduce their child’s risk of asthma in later life, a new study suggests.
There has long been debate about eating nuts during pregnancy, and women have previously been advised to avoid nuts due to the belief they could increase the risk of allergy in their offspring.
But a new study, which looked at more than 60,000 mothers and their children from early pregnancy until the children were 7, has found that eating nuts while expecting may actually have a protective effect on babies, reports The Telegraph.
Researchers discovered that children of women who ate peanuts at least once a week during pregnancy were 21 percent less likely to develop asthma but the time they were 18 months old and a third less likely at seven years, compared with children of mothers who did not eat peanuts.
“We found that maternal peanut and tree nut intake one or more times a week during pregnancy decreases the risk of allergic disease in childhood,” wrote Ekaterina Maslova in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical immunology.
“These results do not support avoidance of nuts during pregnancy,” she adds.
Colin Michie, chairman of nutrition at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said he hoped that women would take note of the findings, which show that early exposure to nuts was beneficial for developing the immune system.
He explained that a series of studies in the 1980s that claimed to find evidence of a link between nut eating during pregnancy and allergic response, had been found to be weak.
“If your body has experienced something before, it’s not going to think that it’s an enemy and come out fighting against it,” he said.
“If you have antigens that are present when you are building up your immune repertoire as a foetus and infant, you are less likely to regard something as foreign or dangerous,” he added.
Colin said that women need to be aware that there were still clinical exceptions and those who had a “dreadful family history of allergy” to nuts should still avoid them, and those unsure should consult their doctors.