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Ah Nuts! A Mixed Bag

Doctors, not to mention parents, have been concerned for years about the ever-increasing number of children who are allergic to nuts of all kinds.  In fact, the number of nut-allergic kids has risen to about 1.5% in the US.  However, a recent article in JAMA Pediatrics, 2013, could be good news! It mentions a study conducted on some 11,000 mothers and their children, which found no evidence that eating nuts during pregnancy caused children to be allergic to them, whether at birth or through adolescence.  In fact, it showed that children are less likely to develop allergies to tree nuts if their mothers ate them regularly during pregnancy.

Nut allergies, which globally affect 1 in 50 children, are extremely difficult for families to handle, as children can often suffer life-threatening episodes by ingesting even minute amounts of nuts, since they are contained in many processed foods.  A recent study of 99 nut-allergic children in England has, however, helped a majority of them to at least be able to digest a few peanuts without falling ill.  Researchers fed a tiny amount of a special flour made of peanuts to the subjects, increasing it little by little until most of the children were able to tolerate as many as five peanuts.  Though this process will be studied further in a special clinic, parents are encouraged to NOT try this experiment at home!

Some doctors are also divided on whether or not nuts, which are high in protein and folic acid, should be ingested by children.  Though this, unfortunately, doesn’t help parents make informed decisions, the two above-mentioned studies give us hope that there will soon be help for families with nut-allergic children.

Debi Marti
Sources: USA Today; JAMA Pediatrics