Nuts and Cancer
I would support a movement to name nuts as a separate basic food group. I love them all: handfuls of salty cashews, chunky peanut butter on toast (or, perhaps, my embarrassing but secret love of peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches, don't laugh until you have tried it), pistachios and sunflower seeds in salads. My mother, she who generally was neutral to negative about food, was a big nut fan, believing that several varieties had various magical powers.
And now there is actually some scientific support for these positive feelings. Here are brief excerpts and then links to two articles about the health and nutritional value of nuts.
A Nutty Way to Prevent Cancer?
Nut consumption was associated with a decreased risk of some types of cancer
(colorectal, endometrial, and pancreatic) but not with type 2 diabetes in a large review.
Note that no associations were found between nut consumption and acute myeloid
leukemia, breast cancer, gastric cancer, glioma, hepatocellular carcinoma, leukemia,
lymphoma, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, or stomach cancer.
Nut consumption was associated with a decreased risk of some types of cancer but not
with type 2 diabetes in a large review.
When patients eating the most nuts were compared with those eating the least, those in the
first group had a lower risk of colorectal cancer in three studies (RR 0.76, 95% CI 0.61-0.96;
I2=51.3%), of endometrial cancer in two studies (RR 0.58, 95% CI 0.43-0.79; I2=0%), and
pancreatic cancer in one study (RR 0.68, 95% CI 0.48-0.96; I2 not available). Those results
were reported in the meta-analysis of 36 observational studies, with a total population of
more than 30,000 patients.
Nut consumption was also associated with a lower risk of cancer in general (RR 0.85, 95%
CI 0.76-0.95; I2=66.5%), according to the authors. But it was not associated with other types
of cancer or with type 2 diabetes (RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.84-1.14; I2=74.2%), found the
researchers, who were led by Lang Wu, a PhD candidate at the Mayo Clinic.
Nuts May Reduce Risk Of Death From Multiple
Causes, Study Finds
Like several before it, a new study finds that eating a modest amount of nuts every day might significantly reduce our risk of dying from a number of chronic diseases. And these include not only a reduced risk of mortality from heart disease, which has been the most-studied benefit of nuts, but also cancer, stroke, respiratory disease, and brain diseases. This is excellent news for nut lovers, but the researchers give a word of caution: Don’t completely go nuts, so to speak. There was an upper limit in the study, above which there was no further benefit from eating nuts. And while peanut butter didn’t offer any benefit (sadly), peanuts did, which suggests that although they’re not technically nuts (they’re legumes), they do have a right to continue masquerading as nuts.
[Update: People have been writing in, pointing out that if you have serious nut allergies, the results may
not apply (this is mostly true), or taking issue with the "death from any cause" phrase, since nuts won't actually save you from things like falling off a cliff. This is also true. It just implied "death from the multiple major causes that were included in the analysis." In the future I'll spell that out more, and have changed to title to reflect that.]
The researchers looked at data from over 120,000 Dutch people who have been taking part in the Netherlands Cohort Study since 1986. They tracked the participants’ dietary habits, and health outcomes over a period of 10 years.
Included in the analysis were tree nuts, peanuts, and peanut butter. Though peanuts are legumes, they share many nutritional properties of nuts, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, so are often included in studies like this one.
It turned out that people who regularly ate nuts had a reduced risk of death from all of the causes included in the analysis – about 23% reduce risk, compared to people who didn’t eat nuts. And while most studies in the past have been interested in the links between nuts and cardiovascular disease, the current study found the benefit also applied to death from other diseases including cancer, stroke, diabetes, respiratory, and neurodegenerative diseases. The reduction in risk of developing neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s was robust: for someone who ate 10 or more grams of nuts per day, it was about 45% less than someone who ate none.
Alice G. Walton Contributor