Walnuts contain compounds that may help prevent breast cancer, suggest findings from a study involving mice specially created to develop tumors.
One group of mice was fed a daily diet that included what would be equivalent to two ounces of walnuts in humans, while another group of mice ate a regular diet. The mice that ate the diet with walnuts had a much lower incidence of breast tumors, fewer glands with a tumor and smaller-sized tumors.
"These laboratory mice typically have 100% tumor incidence at five months; walnut consumption delayed those tumors by at least three weeks," said study author Elaine Hardman, PhD, an associate professor of medicine at Marshall University School of Medicine.
Molecular analysis revealed that increased consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and phytosterols found in walnuts contributed to tumor resistance in the mice. The findings were presented at the American Association for Cancer Research's annual meeting in Denver.
"With dietary interventions, you see multiple mechanisms when working with the whole food," Dr. Hardman said. "It is clear that walnuts contribute to a healthy diet that can reduce breast cancer."
Though the study was done with mice, Dr. Hardman suggested that it's still a good idea for people to eat more walnuts.
"Walnuts are better than cookies, french fries or potato chips when you need a snack," Dr. Hardman said. "We know that a healthy diet overall prevents all manner of chronic diseases."
The study was funded with matching grants from the American Institute for Cancer Research and the California Walnut Commission.
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