Going Nuts For Nuts

When I was pregnant I ate a lot of nuts – daily peanut butter on crackers or bread, 1kg of pistachios in one sitting… (for some reason it didn’t seem excessive at the time).

Anyway, I got a lot of “you-shouldn’t-be-eating-nuts-dangerous-for-baby-raised-eyebrow-disapproving-looks” – it seems there’s a common belief out there that you shouldn’t eat nuts during pregnancy (or eggs, or a whole host of other things). Seriously, man cannot live on ice cream and milo alone…

I’ve always believed that nuts rock* – so I was happy to see these two studies confirming their awesomeness:


Eating Nuts While Pregnant May Protect Offspring Against Allergies

  • A JAMA Pediatrics study found that mothers who ate five or more servings of nuts per week had reduced risk for nut allergy among their offspring (compared with those who ate less than one serving per month;
  • Risk reductions were observed with just one to four weekly servings;
  • For mothers with existing allergies to tree nuts, high consumption of peanuts (or vice versa) was associated with a non-significantly increased allergy risk in their children;
  • An editorialist concludes: “Pregnant women should not eliminate nuts from their diet as peanuts are a good source of protein and also provide folic acid, which could potentially prevent both neural tube defects and nut sensitisation.”
  • Bottom line: pregnant women who eat nuts have kids with less nut allergies (unless the mother has a known nut allergy). This makes sense because repeated intrauterine exposure to nuts is in effect a type of desensitisation. Mothers with nut allergies are more likely to have kids with nut allergies REGARDLESS of nut intake (because allergy has a genetic component).


Frequency Of Nut Consumption Is Inversely Associated With Total And Cause-Specific Mortality

  • Increased nut consumption has been associated with a reduced risk of major chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus;
  • This NEJM study looked at the association between nut consumption and mortality and found that the frequency of nut consumption was inversely associated with total and cause-specific mortality, independently of other predictors of death;
  • Bottom line: increase nut consumption = less death (ie. more life!) INDEPENDENT of other predictors of death
  • Disclosure: this study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation.

* Nuts rock unless of course you are highly allergic to or experience anaphylaxis with them. In that case, DON’T eat them to try to desensitise your unborn child… You could die. Not cool.

Frazier AL, Camargo CA Jr, Malspeis S, Willett WC, Young MC. 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 Pediatr. 2013 Dec 23. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.4139. [Epub ahead of print]
Bao Y, Han J, Hu FB, Giovannucci EL, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, Fuchs CS. Association of nut consumption with total and cause-specific mortality.  N Engl J Med. 2013 Nov 21;369(21):2001-11. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1307352.

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