Pregnant moms who eat peanuts may increase their babies’ risk of getting peanut allergies, new research shows.

Doctors at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine tracked 503 infants ages 3 to 15 months who already were likely to have milk or egg allergies or severe eczema. Children who are allergic to dairy or eggs have an increased risk of peanut allergies, but the babies in the study hadn’t previously been diagnosed as being allergic to nuts.

Researchers did blood tests on the babies, finding that 140 of them had a significant sensitivity to peanuts. Those whose mothers ate peanuts during pregnancy were more likely to have the allergy than the infants whose mothers didn’t.

“Researchers in recent years have been uncertain about the role of peanut consumption during pregnancy on the risk of peanut allergy in infants,” lead author Dr. Scott H. Sicherer, a professor of pediatrics, said in a statement. “While our study does not definitively indicate that pregnant women should not eat peanut products during pregnancy, it highlights the need for further research in order make recommendations about dietary restrictions.”

The findings were published Nov. 1 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Allergist Cliff Bassett said there is “quite a controversy” and considerable debate surrounding whether avoidance or exposure is the best course of action for preventing certain food allergies.

“We weigh the pros and cons of eating peanuts vs. avoiding them. The jury is completely out,” Bassett, the medical director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York, told AOL Health. “There is quite a bit out now that exposure to high-risk foods may confer some benefit, but it’s not a black-and-white issue.”

Bassett said family history and the mother’s own experience with allergies must be examined when deciding what to do when it comes to eating foods like peanuts, eggs and dairy during pregnancy.

“It’s not known exactly what the true risks are,” he said.

Sicherer and his team admit their research has some shortcomings, including its dependence on self-reporting by the pregnant women about their eating habits. Their results show only a heightened risk for testing positive for peanut allergies among babies whose moms ate peanuts.

Still, their work has highlighted a possible contributing factor that could help lower the number of children born with peanut allergies, they say.

“Peanut allergy is serious, usually persistent, potentially fatal, and appears to be increasing in prevalence,” said Sicherer. “Our study is an important step toward identifying preventive measures that, if verified, may help reduce the impact of peanut allergy.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics has previously suggested that women avoid peanut products while they’re pregnant if their children have a greater chance of being born with allergies based on family history. That recommendation, issued in 2000, was retracted in 2008 because of insufficient supporting evidence.

The Consortium of Food Allergy Research is studying the risk factors for peanut, dairy and egg allergies with a nearly $30 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. This research is part of that effort.

From AOL Health