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I've heard anecdotes time and time again from people with allergies that their parent ate a lot of the food they're allergic too while pregnant. Is there any known correlation?

Alright, let's jazz up this question with some sources:

Can Pregnant Moms Give Their Babies a Peanut Allergy? Maybe

According to a new study led by Dr. Scott Sicherer at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, that's a strong possibility. Sicherer found that among 503 infants who showed signs of milk and egg allergies aged three to 15 months, those whose mothers ate peanuts more than twice a week while they were pregnant had higher levels of antibodies to peanuts than those whose mothers ate peanuts less often... Sicherer points out that higher levels of the antibody do not necessarily mean that the babies will definitely become allergic to peanuts, but that it's a strong sign that they might be at greater risk of developing the food allergy. [Ref]

Funny enough, another article had its own twist on this exact same study that made it sound like a sure thing:

Eating Peanuts During Pregnancy Linked to Peanut Allergies

This new research study suggests that eating peanuts during pregnancy increases your baby’s risk of developing peanut allergies later in life. In fact, the more peanuts that a pregnant woman eats in her third trimester, the higher her baby’s risk of being sensitive and possibly allergic to peanuts. To conduct the study, researchers looked at 503 infants, between the ages of 3 and 15 months... [Ref]

Funny enough, almost every article finishes with "But the research is mixed, so don't let this news affect your diet while pregnant." Why the mixed signals?

  • Devil's advocative anecdote: When I was younger, my Mom often told me that, during pregnancy, she ate a lot more of the types of foods that were my favourites. I was not allergic to any these foods. – Randolf Richardson Dec 10 '11 at 4:52
  • @RandolfRichardson - there are foods that are more and less alergic. So it may not even be applicable – user5341 Dec 10 '11 at 14:55
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    @RandolfRichardson They might be your favorites because your mom exposed you to them at a young age while you were developing your tastes because they were the foods she ate. – Sam I Am Dec 10 '11 at 16:13
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    This could also be another effort to blame mothers for the problems that their children have. Mothers who are too "cold" were blamed for causing autism in their children. (autism.about.com/od/causesofautism/p/refrigerator.htm) Similar arguments were used for other mental illnesses. (blogs.psychcentral.com/always-learning/2010/03/…) – Martha F. Dec 11 '11 at 20:10
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    @Sam I Am: That is, indeed, very likely. I do suspect that a causality of a new allergy from eating excessive amounts of a particular food during pregnancy is unlikely since the food is first processed by the mother's digestive system. – Randolf Richardson Dec 12 '11 at 3:44
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The NHS website says

You can eat peanuts or food containing peanuts, such as peanut butter, during pregnancy, unless you're allergic to them or a health professional advises you not to.

You may have heard peanuts should be avoided during pregnancy. This is because the government previously advised women to avoid eating peanuts if there was a history of allergy – such as asthma, eczema, hay fever and food allergy – in their child's immediate family.

This advice has now changed because the latest research has shown no clear evidence that eating peanuts during pregnancy affects the chances of your baby developing a peanut allergy.

However, there are other foods you should avoid altogether while pregnant.

  • Unfortunately, the NHS don't have any references to support their claims. Is there a good reason to trust their authority here? – Oddthinking Jan 30 '18 at 3:06
  • @Oddthinking The NHS is the UK National Health Service – Chris Rogers Jan 30 '18 at 8:13
  • @Oddthinking The NHS do very good reviews of research, unfortunately they don't cross-link from pages aimed at the general public. Here's an example NHS review from 2012 of a study indicating that peanuts during pregnancy can reduce allergy risk. Also relevant is this 2017 article explaining why their advice on peanuts for babies is being reviewed – user56reinstatemonica8 Jan 30 '18 at 11:59
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    @Chris: Ah, yes, I am familiar with the organisation. I am also familiar with many complaints about the organisation. Rather than relying on an appeal to authority, please provide some evidence that shows why the NHS are making this claim. – Oddthinking Jan 30 '18 at 12:03
  • @user568458: They are some good near-misses. It would be good to see a study directly addressing peanut consumption during pregnancy and peanut allergies. – Oddthinking Jan 30 '18 at 12:06

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