A recent study conducted at Marshall University and featured in the journal Nutrition and Cancer has shown that walnuts added to the daily diets of mice have helped lower the risk of developing breast cancer, as well as inhibited the growth of cancerous tumors.
The project was conducted by Elaine Hardman, associate professor of biochemistry at Marshall’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, who has stressed on the importance of food in modulating health, claiming that “what we put into our bodies makes a big difference – it determines how the body functions, our reaction to illness and health. The simple stuff really works: eat right, get off the couch, and turn off the TV. The results of this study indicate that increased consumption of walnuts could be part of a healthy diet and reduce risk for cancer in future generations.”
Hardman tested her hypothesis on two groups of mice – one group was fed walnuts across its entire life-span – from conception to weaning through the mothers, and afterward as added supplements in its regular diet; the second group was always kept on a typical diet. Both groups had been genetically programmed to develop breast cancer at a much faster rate than random mice. The final results revealed that the mice from the test group showed less than half the incidence of cancer when compared to the control group, as well as a much slower rate of development for existing tumors. This implied that the walnuts not only prevented cancer efficiently, but were also able to slow down its progression when it did occur in mice from the test group.
Hardman believes that the secret of walnuts resides in their high omega-3 content. Moreover, Vitamin E, abundantly found in walnuts, is known to have an inhibitory effect on cancerous tumors, with an increased vitamin E intake having been linked to a much lower incidence of cancer. Walnuts are also rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants, scoring highest among all known nuts. This has led some medical researchers to show an increased interest in raw walnuts, which are now acknowledged to contain chemo-preventive properties, although, when testing the impact of different foods on health, it is difficult to establish accurately if the health benefits are derived from the addition of a food item, or the removal of one.
Consequently, some medical scientists are not convinced that Hardman’s findings are truly relevant for humans. Deputy director of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C, Peter G. Shields, used the example of smoking to point out that numerous variables may overturn test results, if such a study were to be applied to humans. Beta-carotene is a known anticarcinogenic for non-smokers, although past studies have revealed that it is unfortunately detrimental to the health of smoking individuals.