The statistics of food allergies among American children is on the rise. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of children with food allergies increased 18 percent between 1997 and 2007. To put it in perspective for you, about three million children under the age of 18 has a food or digestive allergy. Time Magazine reports that six percent of children under age three has a food allergy, and two percent are allergic to peanuts.
Researchers and concerned parents want to know – what’s causing their children to develop these allergies? Could it have something to do with the foods that pregnant women eat? That’s a strong possibility, according to a new study published in the November issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
This new research study suggests that eating peanuts during pregnancy increases your baby’s risk of developing peanut allergies later in life. In fact, the more peanuts that a pregnant woman eats in her third trimester, the higher her baby’s risk of being sensitive and possibly allergic to peanuts.
To conduct the study, researchers looked at 503 infants, between the ages of 3 and 15 months, who displayed signs of milk and egg allergies. (These babies did not have peanut allergies, but the researchers theorized that they were more likely to develop reactions to peanuts.) The infants of mothers who ate peanut products more than twice a week during pregnancy had stronger sensitivity to peanuts, compared to babies whose moms did not eat as many peanut products. In a nutshell, moms who ate peanuts during pregnancy were at an increased risk of having a baby with a peanut allergy.
The results of this study are only the latest in a string of conflicting studies. Some studies have found no link between eating peanuts during pregnancy and food allergy development, while others, like this one, suggest that there may be a connection.
Research studies are confusing, but try not to feel guilty if you love eating peanuts. Many parents believe that you need to eat peanuts during pregnancy to expose your child, while others argue that you need to avoid it completely out of fear of peanut allergies. The choice is up to you, but trust me, you’re not the only one flipping back and forth.
Even the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t know the answer to this question. Between 1998 and 2000, the academy advised pregnant women with a family history of food allergies to avoid peanuts to help reduce the chances of food allergies in their children. Then in 2008, small studies in England found that there was no link to peanut consumption during pregnancy and peanut allergies in newborns, so this policy was reversed.
The bottom line: the research is mixed and there is no consensus. But one thing is clear – there is not enough scientific evidence to suggest that you could completely cut out peanuts from your diet. The best thing you can do for your baby is to eat a healthy and balanced diet.
If you’re interested in discussing pregnancy with other pregnant women, and hip moms of all ages, check out the PregnancyGroup.org.