This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on January 8, 2014.
Soon-to-be moms may be able to lower their child’s risk of developing allergies to peanuts or tree nuts by simply eating more nuts during pregnancy, or within a year before or after giving birth, according to new research.
The study, published last month in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, followed 8,205 children who were born between 1990 and 1994 and whose mothers reported their diets before, during and after pregnancy. By 2009, 140 of the people studied, or 1.7 percent, had developed allergies to peanuts or tree nuts, including walnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamias and Brazil nuts.
The kids whose mothers ate the most nuts were the least likely to develop nut allergies, the study found. As long as the mothers weren’t allergic to nuts, eating five or more servings a week seemed to give their children a higher tolerance for nut allergens, said the researchers, who were based in Boston.
The findings are of interest to pediatricians and public health advocates because the prevalence of childhood peanut allergies has been rising in the United States in recent years. In 1997, 0.4 percent of children were affected by peanut allergies; that rate had tripled to 1.4 percent in 2010, according to the study.
But for people who don’t have allergies, there was some pretty good news for nuts in 2013. An April study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that nuts are a good source of fiber, unsaturated fats, vitamins and minerals. And, despite their high calorie count, eating nuts does not increase body weight or waist circumference, the study found.
Another study published November in the New England Journal of Medicine found that eating about an ounce of nuts a day could lengthen life and reduce the chances of dying of cancer or cardiovascular or respiratory diseases.