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Moms! Eat peanuts, protect babies

Contrary to earlier reports, pregnant women should include peanuts in their diets to protect their babies from allergies.

health and fitness Updated: Sep 21, 2007 20:16 IST

Good news for moms-to-be! You no longer need to avoid peanuts during pregnancy to help shield your baby from allergies.

Yes, according to a report by a House of Lords' committee, pregnant women should eat peanuts, which contain sources of folate and protein, to protect babies from allergies, the Daily Mail reported in London on Friday.

The dramatic findings of the science and technology committee followed a series of authoritative studies showing that allergy rates are low, or non-existent, in Asian and African countries where babies are weaned on peanuts.

"It is quite striking that the increase in peanut allergies is rather in step with the increasing Government advice not to expose tiny children to them.

"In Israel, where peanuts are quite commonly found in baby food, there has been no increase in peanut allergies," Peer Lord May of Oxford was quoted by the daily, as saying.

In Africa, and Asia, where peanuts are a staple food and routinely given to young children, rates of peanut allergy are much lower than in the West.

In China, peanut allergies are almost non-existent. In evidence to the committee Professor Jonathan Hourihane, Child Allergy Expert at Cork University Hospital, said: "In less westernised parts of the world, such as West Africa, they can eat peanuts at the age of six or eight months without ever developing a peanut allergy. Peanut is not the problem all around the world that we have the perception it might be in the UK."

The panel's allergy report is expected to call on the UK's Department of Health to change its official advice which says: "... You may wish to avoid eating peanuts and peanut products when you're pregnant and breast-feeding."

British Health Minister Ivan Lewis told the committee: "If the advice is entirely wrong and counterproductive and actually damaging people, then we really need to move rather quickly rather than having ongoing incessant reviews."