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Study: Consuming Nuts During Pregnancy May Increase Childhood Asthma Risk

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Wednesday, July 16, 2008 1:55 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Asthma, Food Allergies, Pregnancy, Nuts, Childhood Asthma, Anaphylaxis


IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ mixed nuts / author: Melchoir

Pregnant mothers who eat nut products regularly and have a family history of asthma and food allergies, increase the risk for their child to develop asthma by 50 percent.

A new study, found daily versus rare consumption of nut products – largely based on peanut butter consumption – was consistently associated with childhood asthma symptoms that include: wheezing, shortness of breath, diagnosed asthma and asthma-associated steroid use, according to a research team, lead by Saskia M. Willers, an epidemiologist at Utrecht University of the Netherlands.

Nearly 2 percent of American children, under the age of six are affected by food allergies, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

About 3 million people in the United States have an allergy to tree nuts or peanuts. 150 people die annually from anaphylaxis (severe reaction) to food.

Most allergies are the result of repeated contact to allergens in sensitive individuals. Each time the individual is exposed to that allergen, the reaction increases.

It is generally recommended that children 3 and under not consume nut products, because their immune systems are still developing and they are likely more sensitive to allergens, according to Dr. Jennifer Appleyard, chief of allergy and immunology at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit.

University of Utrecht researchers examined 4000 pregnant women – 1,327 with asthma or food allergies and 2,819 with no prior history. The moms were asked to complete a food survey about the foods they regularly consumed throughout their pregnancy. The children were tracked from birth to 8 years of age to help researchers determine whether diet indeed played a factor in the developing of asthma.

Researchers found no link between the mother’s consumption of fish, eggs, milk, vegetables or milk products and the development of asthma. They also found no link between rare or consistent consumption of nuts and the development of asthma related symptoms.

What researchers did find is nut products consumed daily while pregnant increased the overall risk by 42 percent that the child would develop wheezing, 58 percent that they would develop shortness of breath and 62 percent they would require steroid use to ease the symptoms of asthma pain and discomfort, in comparison to those children born to moms who had rarely consumed nut products during pregnancy.

Overall, the study found the likelihood of developing asthma for a child whose mother consumed nuts daily while pregnant was nearly 50 percent higher. But, it is too soon to ban nut consumption during pregnancy altogether, as more research is needed to confirm the study findings.

Willers, does suggest, that pregnant women with a family history of food allergies may want to consider limiting the intake of nut products they consume during pregnancy.

Asthma is a disease that causes narrowing of the bronchial tubes, wheezing, coughing and difficulties breathing. The main cause of asthma is unknown, but researchers have long believed that allergies play a major role in the disease. Seafood and nuts are found to be the most dangerous types of foods that cause food allergies that lead to asthma. However, during this particular study researchers did not find a link between seafood intake during pregnancy and childhood asthma.

The study is published in the July issue of American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. #

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