Study indicates high consumption of nuts during pregnancy may increase children’s asthma risk.

The U.K.’s Telegraph (7/16, Farmer) reports that “[p]regnant women who include nuts in their every day diet increase their child’s risk of developing asthma by more than half,” according to a study published in the second July issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Saskia M. Willers, of Utrecht University, and colleagues, cataloged the “eating habits and allergies of nearly 3,000 women and their children…for eight years.”

The researchers “examined the effect of eating different types of nuts, including peanuts, which botanically are not a true nut,” the BBC (7/15) added. They found that “comparing women who ate nuts daily during pregnancy to those who ate them ‘rarely’ consistently pointed to an increased risk, with between a 40…and 60 percent rise in the chances of wheeze, asthma symptoms in general, and use of steroids.” The data also revealed “lower asthma rates in the children of mothers who ate more fruit during pregnancy.”

The U.K.’s Guardian (7/16, Sample) quotes Willers as saying, “It could be that the allergens in nuts are transferred to the baby in the uterus, increasing the risk of sensitization, and therefore raising their chances of developing the condition.” Still, Willers pointed out that it is “too early to advise pregnant women to avoid nuts altogether.” Instead, she advised pregnant women to “stick to a healthy diet during pregnancy, because that might have lots of benefits for their children, not only to prevent asthma or allergy, but also to reduce their risk of other diseases.”

The researchers also stated that it is “not yet possible to say whether nut products caused the observed effects, or whether some other unidentified factor common to the nut eaters was responsible,” Australia’s Melbourne Herald Sun (7/16, Cresswell) explains. Nevertheless, “[e]ating nuts during pregnancy has been suspected of having a role in making babies allergic to peanuts, a condition that in severe forms can be life-threatening.”

In light of these findings, “women with a strong family history of food allergy may want to limit the amount of nut products they consume during pregnancy,” HealthDay (7/15, Gordon) added. Estimates by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology indicate that about “four percent of American children have food allergies.” In addition, just over “one percent of people in the United States — or about three million — are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts.” MedPage Today (7/15, Bankhead) and WebMD (7/15, Mann) also covered the story.

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