Moms who get a little nuts during pregnancy may be doing their babies a favor—as long as they're eating those nuts! As a new study suggests, women who regularly consume peanuts and tree nuts during pregnancy may be helping to reduce their babies' risk for asthma.
Conducted by researchers from Harvard University, the study included health information from more than 60,000 women in Denmark who answered questions about their peanut and tree nut consumption while pregnant. Moms also reported whether their children had been diagnosed with asthma.
As it turned out, compared to children of mothers who didn't eat peanuts while pregnant, children of mothers who ate peanuts at least once a week were 21 percent less likely to develop asthma by the time they were 18 months old. The study found a similar link when moms reported eating tree nuts, such as almonds and pecans. Overall, nut eating in pregnancy appeared to reduce asthma risk by about one-third by the time children turned seven.
But wait… Didn't we hear we should skip the PB&Js because not eating peanuts and tree nuts during pregnancy is what helps to prevent allergies? It's true that in 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that moms-to-be with a family history of peanut allergies should avoid eating peanuts as a way to reduce allergy risk. But in 2008, the AAP withdrew this recommendation because, as the pediatricians' group itself reported, there just wasn't enough evidence to back it up.
Now, researchers say that nutrients found in nuts, such as vitamin E and zinc, can positively influence babies' lung growth, airway development and immune system function. Still, for those with a family history of asthma and related allergies, it's always a good idea to check in with your doctor about your diet.
The mom reaction? At least one nut eater isn't too surprised.
"Almonds and other nuts, including peanuts, have always been a mainstay of my diet, even during pregnancy. My kids are 11 and 13-years old and have zero allergies," says vegan mom Willa Mahoney, of Catskill, New York.
"I guess I will now have to credit their good health to my favorite pregnancy craving of peanuts mixed with vegan chocolate chips," she adds.