Moms-to-be: Put down the peanut butter and step away from the grape jelly. Your sticky indulgence could mean a lifetime of hassle for your baby.
A new study shows that infants may be at a greater risk of developing a peanut allergy if their mothers ate peanuts while they were pregnant, according to a report in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
But before you mothers of peanut-allergic children go beating yourselves up, consider this: The more than 500 infants who were part of this study were already known to have a sensitivity to milk or eggs. The children, all between the ages of 3 months and 15 months, had a positive skin prick test to milk or eggs and they either had a reaction to eating milk or eggs or had severe eczema, all of which are known risk factors for peanut allergies, according to the report.
The researchers queried the babies’ mothers about their eating habits during pregnancy and took blood samples from the infants. They found that the more frequently the mothers ate peanuts, the more likely the babies were to have a strong positive result in their peanut allergy blood test, the report says. The children of women who ate peanuts twice a week or more during pregnancy were two to three times more likely to have a strong positive than those whose mothers didn’t eat peanuts.
But the article’s lead author, Dr. Scott Sicherer, a professor of pediatrics at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, warns that none of this is definitive. For starters, the positive blood tests don’t mean those babies will definitely have peanut allergies, he says. It’s possible to have a strongly positive test result and still be able to eat peanuts without problems. Because his study was observational, the researchers didn’t determine which children actually had the allergy.
Even more importantly, Sicherer cautions, the babies in his study were already shown to have other allergies. Similar studies conducted in the general population showed that eating peanuts posed no risk to an unborn child.
Sicherer says the message for the medical community is that more studies need to be done. The take home for mothers is less clear.
“You can decide which study you believe,” . “Ultimately, we don’t know for sure what the answer is.”
In other words, use your judgment, and your family history, to guide you.
“For now, the advice would be do what you’re comfortable doing,” Sicherer says. “Each family has to decide what they want to do.”