News & Analysis on the Bakery and Snacks Industries
10 – Mothers that avoid peanuts during pregnancy are more likely to have kids with peanut allergies
By Elaine Watson
- Last updated on
Around 0.6% of Americans are allergic to peanuts, but as with all food allergies, the incidence is rising, with a tripling in prevalence reported between 1997 and 2008, although no one knows exactly why.
Interestingly, peanut allergies are much less common in Asia and Africa where peanuts are staple foods, while peanut-based Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) has been given to newborns and infants in multiple countries without causing allergic reactions.
One possible explanation is the hygiene hypothesis - which suggests that modern medical practices such as immunizations and a more sanitary environment have weakened our immune systems - while others also observe that efforts to reduce infants’ exposure to peanuts has increased, rather than decreased, their chances of developing an allergy.
Indeed, while parents have historically been advised to avoid giving very young children peanuts, that advice has now changed, on the back of research showing that early exposure to peanuts mean you are less, not more, likely to develop a peanut allergy.
Meanwhile, the latest research shows that mothers who avoid peanuts during pregnancy are more likely to have kids with peanut allergies.
Finally, some very exciting research also indicates that oral immunotherapy with peanuts (ie. giving young children with peanut allergies peanuts) could be a successful strategy in desensitizing them.
Picture: Senegalese sweet potato and peanut soup, National Peanut Board