Is it safe to eat peanut butter while pregnant?
January 2, 2012 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Is it safe to eat peanut butter while pregnant?

I'm in my second trimester, first pregnancy, and I've recently heard there may be risks with eating peanut butter while pregnant - the baby may develop a peanut allergy. On pregnancy forums, some pregnant women who report eating PB while pregnant had kids who developed peanut allergies and/or eczema, while some had kids who didn't develop the allergy. Either eating PB during pregnancy increases risk of developing an allergy, or it prevents developing an allergy. Obviously there's a lot of conflicting information/opinions!

For my situation, I don't have any food allergies, nor does my partner, either of our families or his sister's 3 kids, or my niece. Although my dad, who's almost 70 has developed a bit of sensitivity to shellfish in the last year or so. I'm vegetarian (since 1996) and started eating a lot of PB several weeks into my pregnancy to get more protein, like maybe 1-2 tbsp a day (i.e. in 2 sandwiches). Before that, I didn't have a lot of PB at all, but would eat peanuts on occasion (as snacks and in Thai food). I ate PB occasionally when I was a kid. I eat raw PB from the health food store (provided as peanuts that you have to grind using their machine), not processed PB from Kraft or whatever. I do eat other nuts as snacks: walnuts, cashews, almonds (raw, unsalted, unroasted).

The rest of my diet is pretty healthy, though not 100%. Vices include the occasional bag of chips or Smartfood, a bit of chocolate/hot chocolate over the holidays. No other caffeine or tea, or any alcohol/drugs/cigarettes. I don't drink cow's milk, but soy milk a few days a week, fruit juice every so often, V8, tap water, bottled water at work, yogourt, oatmeal with flax seed, whole wheat bread and pasta (no white bread/pasta), nutritional yeast, cream cheese on whole wheat bagels, salads, tofu on occasion, bean dishes, dahl, egg salad sandwiches, hearty soups, fried rice, fruit, non-vegan muffins, sunflower seeds (raw, unsalted, unroasted). Vitamins: I take a prenatal, folate and vitamin D. I'm not on any meds.

YANAD, or MD. Hivemind, what do you think the chances are of my kid developing a peanut allergy, based on what you know, your experiences, etc.? We're also Chinese - anyone know if peanut allergies are more/less common in different ethnicities? Did you/your kids develop a peanut allergy without your mom/you eating peanut butter? I can't seem to find info on that either. Other info: I'm 33, normal weight, exercise moderately (probably slightly less than I should). My partner is 41.
posted by foxjacket to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Some science here, including a summary that says No effect of maternal peanut consumption during pregnancy or lactation is observed.
posted by fritley at 9:39 AM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is a topic I've done some very basic, general poking-around in solely out of curiosity. You might find this article helpful - it's from MedScape and addresses your exact question.

About a decade ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics did actually recommend avoiding consumption of peanut products during pregnancy as a possible means of preventing allergy in children. That recommendation was rescinded in 2008 based on new research. The article I linked to above contains links to several studies that found no relationship between consumption of peanut products during pregnancy and peanut allergy in children.
posted by pecanpies at 9:40 AM on January 2, 2012

Addressing your other point, about likelihood of your child developing peanut allergy: Chinese people (from China) have a lower incidence of peanut allergy than Americans, in spite of roughly equivalent peanut intake. There is a hypothesis (article cited in this Wikipedia article) that the high temperature at which peanuts are roasted in the US makes them more allergenic than raw peanuts. (The other popular hypothesis for the discrepancy in allergy rates is the hygiene hypothesis.)

So even if your eating peanuts during pregnancy increased your child's chances of developing a peanut allergy (and it seems like the evidence is against this, per the articles mentioned above), if that roasting temp hypothesis is correct the chance of their having an effect would likely be even lower given that you consumed raw peanuts rather than roasted.

I am sure many people have developed peanut allergy in spite of their mothers not eating peanuts - there are whole families where everyone has peanut allergy, so of course those mothers wouldn't have been eating peanuts during their pregnancy.
posted by mskyle at 10:33 AM on January 2, 2012

Anecdata alerg:

I drank TONS of milk while pregnant with DS1. He's mildly allergic to milk now. I avoided peanuts in that pregnancy. He's anaphylactic to peanuts.

I had one bite of DH's peanut butter sandwich while pregnant with DS2. He's not allergic to peanuts. I avoided dairy while pregnant with him. He's not allergic to dairy.

There is no correlation.

There are no major food allergies on either side of our families, but in this next generation, we have dairy and peanut allergies in at least 3 of the 6 cousins (aged between 3 and 8 years old).

I suspect some kind of overall environmental issue. Or the conspiracy theorist in me wonders about an epigenetic link between smoking (our parents all smoked like chimneys through the 60s because that's just what you did) and the grandkids' allergies.
posted by wenat at 10:57 AM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have food sensitivities, as does my brother and my father. It is extremely likely that my children will develop the same issues but as of now they are fine.

Since you have no history of problems then don't worry about it. Eat your peanut butter. Millions of pregnant women have eaten peanut butter and produced children who are not allergic.
posted by myselfasme at 11:15 AM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

My understanding is that pediatricians used to suggest avoiding peanuts during pregnancy, but no longer do so. Since there is no history of peanut allergies in your family, I would not worry if I were you.

I have no family history of food allergies, ate peanut butter throughout both pregnancies, neither child has any food allergies.

I suspect some kind of overall environmental issue. Or the conspiracy theorist in me wonders about an epigenetic link between smoking (our parents all smoked like chimneys through the 60s because that's just what you did) and the grandkids' allergies.

The factor I wonder about, personally, is antibiotic use.
posted by ambrosia at 11:40 AM on January 2, 2012

Yeah, when I was pregnant with my first I heard the two sides you did (It makes them allergic! It makes the not allergic!) and decided that the predominant data was that that was no correlation, and thus, because peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are one of the easiest lunch food and I have a tendency to eat peanut butter straight out of the jar on days when I can't be bothered or don't feel well enough for real food (my son now does this too, we call it a "mommy special"), I ate peanut butter. And I'm eating it now 7 months pregnant with my 2nd. My first is not allergic, and I don't expect the second to be, and if he is, I doubt it will be related to peanut butter eating.

So completely ancedotal, but I ate it and I was fairly strict about avoid the other foods they say not to eat, just because I felt the science wasn't there to support not, and well, I like it.
posted by katers890 at 12:15 PM on January 2, 2012

Yeah, no correlation at all. If you want peanut butter, eat peanut butter!
posted by misha at 1:02 PM on January 2, 2012

Either eating PB during pregnancy increases risk of developing an allergy, or it prevents developing an allergy.

Third possibility: it has no effect on whether an allergy develops.
posted by Miko at 1:12 PM on January 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

More anecdata: I have close friends whose family has lived for many generations in Suffolk, VA -- a major peanut farming and processing center for over 100 years. They can't recall knowing anyone born and raised there who has a peanut allergy.
posted by desuetude at 1:29 PM on January 2, 2012

I ate peanut butter / mayo and banana sandwiches with huge glasses of milk almost every day with both pregnancies. YMMV..... I think it just depends on you and your genes and your child. But.....I didn't hold back and we are all fine.
posted by pearlybob at 1:30 PM on January 2, 2012

Once upon a time I tried to build an FPP on the immune system. Unfortunately, it's complex (as opposed to merely complicated) so that damn near anything you say isn't 100% true. Suffice it to say the immune system is not the some of it's parts - it's the sum of the interaction of it's parts and there are many many parts. You have something like 10^9 different flavors of B cells to start with, but your body gets rid of some of those prenatally because they're likely to mistake your liver (or whatever) as a raging infection. This system is not without flaw (see the many different horrible autoimmune diseases out there) and you actually make antibodies to some self antigens for regulatory purposes.

The Wikipedia article cites a paper that suggests that age of exposure correlates with incidence of allergies such that the longer you go without exposure, the more likely you are to develop allergies. I've not read the papers and have no idea if that matters one little bit in case of prenatal exposure.

I have yet to hear a solid causal hypothesis linking antibiotics to allergies. The hygiene hypothesis, is, in addition to the observation that first world countries have more allergies than third world countries, based on the observation that allergies are Immunoglobulin Epsilon mediated and IgE otherwise is mostly used to combat parasitic infections.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:47 PM on January 2, 2012

Under very similar circumstances, I decided that keeping up with my protein intake (which has a very definite, well-defined effect on maternal and fetal health) was more important than an ill-defined possible link to allergies. I ate a lot of nuts and nut butters, because without them I had a really hard time keeping up with an appropriate protein consumption level, even as a pretty experienced vegetarian. I did try to keep things in moderation by rotating the nuts in the nut butters--I'd get almond butter one week, cashew the next, peanut after that (and yeah I was going through a jar a week plus, because I'd often get a peanut butter bagel at the local coffee shop too.) That was my interpretation of the data, but everyone has their own comfort levels.
posted by tchemgrrl at 1:49 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Doctors encourage pregnant women with gestational diabetes to eat peanuts, peanut butter and other nuts to ensure adequate protein intake. Also, I know parents of children with peanut allergies, and they were not told to stop eating peanuts during subsequent pregnancies. There are enough foods to avoid during pregnancy - go ahead and enjoy peanuts and peanut butter!
posted by emilyv at 4:43 PM on January 2, 2012

« Older How tough is the job market in Ft. Myers/Cape...   |   Watching the Knicks in a post-MSG world Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.