Mothers-to-be should consider eating nuts

The Orange County RegisterDecember 31, 2013 

Pregnant women who feel a food craving coming on might want to order up some pistachios to go with their bucket of ice cream.

Children seem to be at a reduced risk of developing an allergy to peanuts or tree nuts if their mothers ate more nuts during pregnancy, and were not allergic to nuts themselves, according to a new study done at Dana-Farber Children's Cancer Center in Boston.

The medical community is struggling to explain a sharp rise in incidence of childhood peanut allergies, which went from 0.4 percent of kids in 1997 to 1.4 percent in 2010. The peanut, which is a legume, is a common allergen, but tree nuts like walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios and Brazil nuts can cause symptoms, as well. Nuts can cause a severe allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis, which can potentially be fatal. About 9 percent of children with a tree-nut allergy outgrow it, according to the Virginia-based group Food Allergy Research & Education.

When pregnant, non-allergic women ate peanuts or tree nuts at least five times a week, their offspring had the lowest allergy rate among any group in the study.

"Our study supports the hypothesis that early allergen exposure increases the likelihood of tolerance and thereby lowers the risk of childhood food allergy," said the study, which was published online Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

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