Washington: They are hard to crack, but walnuts have a handful of medicinal values from curing headache and preventing baldness to having some influence on fertility.
Now, a new research has found that eating a modest amount of walnuts as a regular part of the diet might reduce a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer.
The researchers at the Marshall University found that a daily dose of walnuts - equal to 2 ounces a day in humans - reduces the growth of breast cancer tumors in mice.
Lead researcher Elaine Hardman, Ph.D., of Marshall’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, and colleagues studied the mice from the mother, through conception and throughout life. They then compared mice given walnuts to those fed a regular diet.
They found that the group whose diet included walnut at 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,” Hardman said.
“We were able to reduce the risk for cancer even in the presence of a preexisting genetic mutation,” she added.
Using genetic analysis, they researchers found that the walnut-containing diet changed the activity of multiple genes that are relevant to breast cancer in both mice and humans.
Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and phytosterols that may all reduce the risk of the disease.
“The results of this study indicate that increased consumption of walnut could be part of a healthy diet and reduce risk for cancer in future generations,” she said.
The study was funded by grants from the American Institute for Cancer Research and the California Walnut Commission.
The study appears in the journal Nutrition and Cancer.