Peanuts During Pregnancy: Are They Dangerous?

Kate Middleton sparked a pregnancy rumor by refusing to eat peanut paste during a recent royal visit to a UNICEF famine relief center in Copenhagen, even though her husband and their hosts, the Danish Crown Prince and his wife, all happily sampled the food. Kate, 29, was caught on camera giving Prince William a knowing smile as he scrutinized the product’s label, ABC News reports.

Further fueling speculation that she may be carrying an heir to the throne is the Palace’s emphatic announcement that Kate “has no nut allergy whatsoever,” so doesn’t have any other medical reason to shun peanuts. If she is expecting, Kate may be smart to say no to the legume, since new research suggests that eating peanuts during pregnancy may raise the risk of some babies developing potentially life-threatening peanut allergies, which have risen sharply among kids over the past decade.

Learn more about what to do to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

Pregnancy and Peanut Allergy

There’s long been medical debate about how much of a threat eating peanuts during pregnancy actually poses. Years ago, in a bid to prevent peanut allergies, which can sometimes be fatal, the American Academy of Pediatrics briefly advised high-risk  women to avoid the legumes when pregnant or breastfeeding. The group withdrew the recommendation in 2008 and issued a revision statement saying the impact of eating or avoiding peanuts during pregnancy was unclear.

To be on the safe side, moms-to-be may want to follow Kate Middleton’s example. Last year, however, a study published in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology reported that babies with signs of other food allergies may be at higher risk for peanut allergies if their moms ingested peanuts during pregnancy. Those whose moms ate the most peanuts during the third trimester of pregnancy were most likely to have babies with peanut sensitivity.

How risky is eating peanuts during pregnancy?

The study didn’t prove that eating peanuts during pregnancy triggers peanut allergies in kids. The research merely shows that babies whose moms ate peanuts showed strong sensitivity to the legumes when given standard skin-prick allergy tests. In the study, the researchers evaluated 503 babies with likely signs of allergies to eggs or milk, based on skin-prick tests, or food-allergy related skin rashes. 140 of the babies had a strong sensitivity to peanuts, with this reaction strongly linked to peanut consumption by their moms during pregnancy.

However, the researchers point out a need for further research. “Our study looked at sensitization, not peanut allergy,” study researcher Scott H. Sicherer, MD, of New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine told WebMD. “It is going to be a few years before we know whether these children really do develop true peanut allergies.” Dr. Sicherer doesn’t see a need to update the AAP guidelines, because there still not enough evidence to tell for sure if eating peanuts during pregnancy causes kids to develop lifelong allergies, as opposed to temporary sensitivity.

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