Walnuts and Breast Cancer Risk
By Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH
If you’re like most women, you have a great deal of admiration and respect those whose lives have been impacted by breast cancer. Thanks to their teachings, we’ve learned that breast cancer awareness and prevention is critical.
In addition to breast self examination, regular checkups, and mammograms as needed, diet plays an important role in protecting women from developing breast cancer. The results of a new study* underscore the importance of diet in reducing the risk of this devastating disease.
The study, published in the journal, Nutrition and Cancer, demonstrated that the risk of breast cancer dropped significantly in mice when their regular diet included small amounts of walnut. Findings in female mice are relevant to women, and mice are routinely used in breast cancer research.
For the study, the researchers compared the effects of a typical diet and a diet containing walnuts throughout the lifespan. The mothers of unborn mice ate walnuts from the time of conception and continued to eat walnuts while the newborn mice nursed. Once the mice were weaned, they received walnuts in their own diets. The walnut-containing test diet contained the human equivalent of about 2 ounces of walnuts per day.
During the study period, the group of mice whose diet included walnuts at both stages of development acquired breast cancer at less than half the rate of the group with the traditional diet. In addition, the number of tumors and their sizes were significantly smaller.
These findings are particularly impressive when you realize that the mice in the study were genetically programmed to develop cancer. Even in the presence of a pre-existing genetic mutation that practically guaranteed the development of cancer, the walnut-eating mice were far less likely to develop breast cancer than their counterparts who ate traditional, walnut-free diets. Previous research has clearly demonstrated that multiple ingredients in walnuts reduce the risk of developing cancer and also slow its growth.
As part of a healthy diet, walnuts can reduce the risk of breast cancer, not only in adult women, but also in their unborn babies. If you need a little more motivation to eat a wholesome, nutritious diet, just think about this: The food that you eat today could help protect your children, and even your grandchildren, from cancer.
* Marshall University Research Corporation (2011, September 1). Breast cancer risk drops when diet includes walnuts, researchers find.