Could eating nuts during your pregnancy help protect your baby from developing allergies? A new study shows that just might be the case.
According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics on Monday by researchers from a number of hospitals and universities, including Boston Children's Hospital and Dana-Farber Children's Cancer Center, "early allergen exposure increases the likelihood of tolerance, and thereby lowers the risk of childhood food allergy."
Translation: If you're not allergic to nuts and you eat them frequently — five times a week or more! — during your pregnancy, you could be helping your baby reduce his risk of developing a nut allergy after birth.
Researchers in this study looked at maternal nut consumption data on more than 8,200 children whose mothers participated in the Nurses Health Study, one of the largest and longest-running examinations of women's health in the U.S. They found that women who had no nut allergies themselves and ate nuts five times a week or more during their pregnancies had kids with the lowest nut allergy risk.
Food allergies in children increased by about 50 percent across the board between 1997 and 2011 — a staggering number. According the study, nut allergies in particular, have more than tripled in recent years, affecting about 1.4 of children in 2010. And childhood nut allergies are rarely outgrown.
Earlier guidelines — kiboshed in 2008 — suggested women who were pregnant or nursing avoid nuts for fear of triggering allergy risk in kids. This study — while further research is needed to replicate the findings — suggests the opposite.
Obviously, if mama is allergic to nuts, though, she should continue to avoid them. But if you have no known nut allergies, go ahead and indulge — frequently! — in nuts that haven't been overly processed (say dry roasted and unsalted!). After all, they're a great source of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — the kind your body, and baby's, totally needs!