Peanut Butter and Pregnancy

Can I eat peanut butter in pregnancy?

Pregnant Woman Eating Cereal
Photo © Zia Soleil/Getty Images

Peanut and tree nut allergies are on the rise in young children. It is estimated that about 1.4% of children in North America have an allergy to peanuts and tree nuts.  (These food allergies are separate but many people have both.) This has left researchers trying to figure out why there is an increase in the number of kids who are diagnosed with this life threatening allergies. One suggestion was that perhaps what the mother ate in pregnancy would alter whether or not the child later developed the allergy to peanuts, tree nuts, or both.

This lead to mothers being advised to alter their diet in pregnancy to avoid certain allergens, like peanuts or tree nuts. The hope was to prevent some cases of these allergies.

However, in one large study that was done, they actually had mothers eat peanut butter and followed up long term with the children to see who developed allergies to what and when they developed. What they found was the opposite of their original hypothesis. Eating peanut butter actually had a very positive effect for the kids in terms of the number of allergies.

Peanut butter in pregnancy, for women who were not allergic to peanuts, actually may help prevent peanut allergies in children. Since peanuts and peanut butter are good sources of protein, this may be a healthy snack for you during pregnancy. Many women also find peanut butter and jelly to be a comfort food. This can be a relief to many PB&J fans.

If you or a family member have food allergies, you may wish to discuss your dietary habits with your allergist.

There is ongoing research to always look for new ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat these allergies and others. Some families may have special circumstances that would mean that avoidance of peanuts would be a good thing, particularly if mom is allergic to them.

About 20% of children will outgrow their peanut allergy, but you should not allow them to eat peanuts before consulting with your allergist.

They actually will perform tests to see if your child falls into this category. About 15% of kids are exposed every year to peanuts because they are so common in our diets. This means it is imperative that you read food labels if you or your child was told to avoid peanuts or other allergens in your diet.

Source:
A. Lindsay Frazier, Carlos A. Camargo Jr, Susan Malspeis, Walter C. Willett, Michael C. Young. Prospective Study of Peripregnancy Consumption of Peanuts or Tree Nuts by Mothers and the Risk of Peanut or Tree Nut Allergy in Their Offspring. JAMA Pediatrics, 2013 DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.4139

American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. Effects of Early Nutritional Interventions on the Development of Atopic Disease in Infants and Children: The Role of Maternal Dietary Restriction, Breastfeeding, Timing of Introduction of Complementary Foods, and Hydrolyzed Formulas. Pediatrics, volume 121, number 1, January 2008, pages 183-191.

Frank L, Marian A, Visser M, Weinberg E, Potter PC. Exposure to peanuts in utero and in infancy and the development of sensitization to peanut allergens in young children. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 1999 Feb;10(1):27-32.

Lack, G., at al. Factors Associated with the Development of Peanut Allergy in Childhood. New England Journal of Medicine, volume 348, number 11, March 2003, pages 977-985.

Continue Reading