Good old walnuts, the well-known brain food, have some other health benefits not previously reported before. Californian scientists report that walnuts may be a strong weapon against prostate cancer as demonstrated in animal studies. The researchers used lab mice genetically modified to developed prostate cancer. One group of animal was fed an equivalent of 14 shelled walnuts each day for two months. Another group was fed with soybean oil at a similar dose. The researchers observed that the prostate cancer in walnut-fed animals was reduced in size and growth rate. The size was on average 50% smaller and the growth rate 30% slower than the soybean-fed mice. The walnut-fed animals also had lower levels of the insulin-like protein growth-factor 1. High levels of this protein are an indicator of increased risk of prostate cancer.
According to head researcher Dr. Paul Davis:
“We decided to use whole walnuts in the diet because when a single component of a food linked to cancer prevention has been tested as a supplement, that food’s cancer-preventative effects disappear in most cases.”
So what do walnuts have that helps fight cancer? D. Davis’ team reports that walnuts contain a wide range of health compounds that include omega-3 fatty acids, gamma tocopherol (a form of vitamin E), polyphenols, and antioxidants.
Previous research studies have shown that walnut is also beneficial for cardiovascular health by reducing levels of endothelin, a compound linked to inflammation and atherosclerosis.
Dr. Davis continues:
Indeed, the importance of diet in cancer prevention is a well-known fact but there is little practical advice for those who wish to alter their diet for the better. By testing specific food stuffs, scientists hope to pinpoint which food in the diet are most beneficial and thus optimize preventive measures. The next step is to validate whether the benefits of walnuts can be extrapolate to humans.
According to Dr Helen Rippon, Head of Research Management at The Prostate Cancer Charity
“This new research, which is yet to be fully peer reviewed, does provide new clues about the development of prostate cancer and how a man’s diet might help prevent the disease by regulating their hormone levels and the way that genes work. However it is far too early to say whether walnuts can prevent prostate cancer in men as well as these special, genetically modified mice.
Nonetheless, dietary modification is still of great interest in prostate cancer prevention, particularly as it involves men taking action to support their own health. Nuts are a rich source of nutrients and should be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. However, over-consumption is not to be recommended because of their high content of saturated fat, which could cause other health problems like obesity – itself a risk factor for many cancers.”