September 2, 2011
HUNTINGTON, W.Va.Consuming just 2 oz. of walnuts per day could significantly reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, according to researchers at Marshall Universitys Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.
The mouse study compared the effects of a typical diet and a diet containing walnuts across the lifespan: through the mother from conception through weaning, and then through eating the food directly. Results showed that the mice whose diet included walnuts during both stages developed breast cancer at less than half the rate of the group with the typical diet. In addition, the number of tumors and their sizes were significantly smaller.
"These reductions are particularly important when you consider that the mice were genetically programmed to develop cancer at a high rate," said Elaine Hardman, Ph.D. "We were able to reduce the risk for cancer even in the presence of a preexisting genetic mutation."
According to a Marshall University press release, genetic analysis found that the walnut-containing diet changed the activity of multiple genes that are relevant to breast cancer in both mice and humans. Other testing showed that increases in omega-3 fatty acids from walnuts did not fully account for the anti-cancer effect, and found that tumor growth decreased when dietary vitamin E increased.
The researchers also noted that dietary-modification studies do not show whether benefits result from what is added to a diet or what is removed. In this study, for example, adding healthy fat and other components meant that unhealthy fat was reduced in order to keep total dietary fat balanced in the mice.
That said, Hardman maintans that other studies have shown that multiple ingredients in walnuts reduce the risk of cancer or slow its growth.
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