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Eating walnuts slows cancer growth, laboratory study finds

Snack-sized quantities of walnuts slow cancer growth in mice, reports a Marshall University pilot study published in the current issue of the peer-reviewed journal Nutrition and Cancer.

Researcher W. Elaine Hardman, Ph.D., of Marshall's Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine said the purpose of the study was to determine whether mice that got part of their calories by eating walnuts had slower breast cancer growth than a group eating a diet more typical of the American diet.

"When we fed the mice the walnuts, the growth rate of the tumors they had was dramatically suppressed," Hardman said.

The mice ate a diet in which 18.5 percent of the daily calories -- the equivalent of two servings for humans -- came from walnuts. Tumors in the walnut-fed group took twice as long to double in size as tumors in the control group, the article reports. The study is believed to be the first to look at the impact of walnut consumption on cancer growth.

"It's always very good to find something that will slow the growth of tumors without being toxic chemotherapy," said Hardman, who has spent 15 years studying the role of diet in cancer.

Walnuts have at least three components that could account for their cancer-slowing effect, Hardman said. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to slow cancer growth. They also include antioxidants and components called phytosterols, both of which have shown cancer-slowing effects in other studies.

While the pilot study was only designed to determine whether -- not why -- walnuts had a tumor-suppressing effect, Hardman said research as a whole is suggesting that Americans need to get more of their fat calories from fats rich in omega-3 fatty acids and fewer fat calories from saturated fat or foods high in omega-6 fatty acids.

In addition to walnuts, other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fish and canola and flaxseed oils, she said.

Medicine is increasingly looking at dietary changes as a way to reduce cancer, Hardman said.

"We're beginning to understand that your diet probably contributes to one-third to two-thirds of all cancers that develop, and making dietary changes to prevent cancer could do more to reduce the deaths from cancer than chemotherapy to treat cancer," she said.

"Changing our habits to reduce our risk not only of cancer but also of other chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, could reduce our health costs that are eating us up and provide better lives for a lot of people," she said. "I think in the future -- and probably the near future -- our diet, and making dietary changes, is going to become the biggest weapon for fighting cancer."

The project was funded through grants from the American Institute for Cancer Research and the California Walnut Commission, neither of which had input on the interpretation or reporting of the findings.

 

Walnuts and Cholesterol

 Can walnuts help fight high cholesterol? You betcha!.

In the "Effects of Walnuts on Serum Lipid Levels and Blood Pressure in Normal Men," published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that men placed on a diet which called for 20% of their weekly calories to come from walnuts, had reductions in 12.4% in total cholesterol and 16.3% in LDL or "bad" cholesterol, and only 4.9 percent in HDL ("good") cholesterol. The ratio of "bad" to "good" cholesterol was also lowered by the walnut diet.

 

Walnuts are Beneficial for Coronary Heart Disease

 

A scientific review of all walnut-specific clinical research, announced today by the Life Sciences Research Office (LSRO), concludes that the body of research is strong that eating walnuts reduces the risk for heart disease due to their preventative properties.
 
The article, entitled "The Scientific Evidence for a Beneficial Health Relationship Between Walnuts and Coronary Heart Disease," is published in the May issue of The Journal of Nutrition, a publication of the American Society for Nutritional Sciences.
 
Key findings suggest that:
(1) Consuming walnuts did not cause a net gain in body weight
(2) Walnuts decreased serum cholesterol and reduce heart disease risk
(3) Walnuts are unique among nuts due to their polyunsaturated fat (omega-3 and omega-6) fatty acid content
 
The author, and four independent experts, evaluated the content and quality of scientific evidence for a potential beneficial health relationship between the intake of walnuts and the reduction and prevention of coronary heart disease.
 
Five controlled, peer-reviewed, human clinical walnut intervention trials - involving approximately 200 subjects considered representative of the adult population in the United States at risk of coronary heart disease - were reviewed.
 
"Daily intake of - cup of walnuts (48 to 84 grams) lowered low density lipoprotein cholesterol with little effect on high density lipoprotein cholesterol and had other beneficial effects on blood lipids, all of which have been shown in numerous other studies to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease," says article author Elaine B. Feldman, M.D., Medical College of Georgia.
 
Commenting on the analysis, Artemis P. Simopoulos, M.D., president of The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health and author of The Omega Diet said, "Compared to most other nuts, which contain monounsaturated fatty acids, walnuts are unique because they have a perfect balance of n-6 (linoleate) and n-3 (linolenate) polyunsaturated fatty acids, a ratio of 4:1 which has been shown to decrease the risk of sudden death in the Lyon Heart Study." (Lancet, 1994)
 
In addition, though walnuts are energy rich, clinical dietary intervention studies show that walnut consumption did not cause a net gain in body weight when eaten as a replacement food.
 
The review was conducted by the Life Sciences Research Office (LSRO). LSRO is an independent, non-profit organization that conducts peer-reviewed scientific
reviews, prepares expert documents, and manages scientific meetings (see www.lsro.org). The review was conducted according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines for assessing data for health claims (the relationship between a food substance and a disease or health-related condition). As with all LSRO studies, the LSRO has final authority for selection of expert authors/reviewers, and the conclusions of the study.

 

Mother Nature knows best!

Forget the supplements. Put away those processed foods. Experts agree, sound nutrition is simple: choose a variety of whole, fresh foods. In other words, eating the real thing - fresh foods straight from the field or orchard- is your best bet. Walnuts, for instance, are naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for good health. But your body doesn't make them, so you have to get them from the foods you eat.

Omega-3 Long Chain - Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Possible Health Benefits

bulletPrevent essential fatty acid deficiency in infancy
bulletRetinal and brain function and development
bulletCoronary heart disease
bulletStroke
bulletCertain cancers like breast, colon & prostate
bulletMild hypertension
bulletRheumatoid arthritis
bulletAuto-immune disease like lupus & nephropathy
bulletCrohn's disease
bulletInflammatory skin diseases like atopic eczema, infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis

 

Free school lesson plan for educators: http://www.walnuts.org/walnuts/wnt_educators.asp