For years the mantra was to avoid nuts in pregnancy, because eating nuts might increase the risk for nut allergies in offspring. And nut allergies are no joke: They can be deadly-for some even the smell of nuts can trigger infections. Also, it is estimated that the lifetime cost of raising a nut allergic child is about $4,000. This is due to time taken off from work to care for the child, when allergic attacks occur. As if having a nut allergy weren’t enough, sufferers can never fly Southwest and enjoy the main fare of peanuts!
A recent study found that consumption of nuts in pregnancy actually reduced the risks of a child having a subsequent nut allergy. One explanation is that early exposure (the mother eats the nuts and the developing fetus is exposed while still in the womb) increases the likelihood that the immune system will “tolerate” and not overreact to the nuts. The study involved over 8,000 mothers, so the conclusions seem reasonable.
Nuts are definitely healthy-they contain the good kind of fat, lots of protein and may stimulate brain activity. Nuts are also a good source of folic acid, a key chemical which can prevent serious neurological conditions such as spina bifida.
Remember that this is just one study and although the design and results seem valid, the study had some issues. Perhaps the most glaring was that there was no mention of fathers’ diet. So the bottom line is that it is ok for mothers to eat peanuts and doing so might actually reduce the risk of peanut allergies in their offspring. I have no answers for expectant dads, for the present just lay low and avoid Southwest flights and peanuts.