Two Handfuls a Day Keeps Cancer at Bay
September 22nd, 2013 by Holly Cornish
New research underscores that walnuts have a unique power to inhibit certain types of cancer. We’ve written about walnuts before, but the news just keeps getting better. This food is starting to stand out as one of the best steps you can take to avoid cancer. Keep reading and you’ll see why…
Continued below. . .
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The most recent walnut study was reported by the journal Cancer Investigation. University of Texas Health Science Center researchers started with mice genetically programmed to develop prostate cancer. In most cases, these mice develop tumors within three or four weeks of receiving an injection of prostate cancer cells.
But after being put on a high-walnut diet, “We found the results to be stunning…” said senior study author Russel Reiter, PhD. Of the mice consuming a walnut-enriched diet, only 18 percent developed prostate tumors. Compare this with 44 percent of mice in the control group that developed tumors. Eating walnuts cut the risk of cancer in these mice by nearly 60 percent. And that risk was exceptionally high in these animals.
Plus, the average tumor size from the walnut-eating group was about a quarter the size of tumors in the control group. The mice who ate walnuts got fewer tumors AND much smaller tumors.
Even more exciting, this research underscores earlier findings on the benefits of walnuts when it comes to fighting breast cancer. Back in 2011, researchers at Marshall University Medical School ran a study in which walnut-fed mice were injected with human breast cancer cells. The results were similar to those in the prostate study: fewer and smaller tumors in the walnut-eating group, with tumor growth slowed by as much as 50 percent.
The results in both groups of mice were impressive considering the mice had preexisting genetic mutations that prompt high cancer rates. Yet, walnut consumption still reduced that risk.
Walnuts thwart multiple health problems
This latest news is consistent with several other reports that praise the healing benefits of nuts. In another recent study, the journal BMC Medicine stated that folks who eat nuts more than three times a week have a lower risk of developing cancer or cardiovascular disease.
These findings were based on a longitudinal study conducted in Spain where older folks followed a diet supplemented with either extra virgin olive oil or nuts, and were then compared to a control group.
The people who ate the nuts had a lower body mass index (BMI) and smaller waist, on average. And they were much less likely to develop Type II diabetes or hypertension. In general, people in the nut-eating group had a 39 percent lower mortality. Those who ate walnuts in particular had a 45 percent lower mortality.
According to Spanish professor Jordi Salas-Salvado, it is unknown how nuts, and walnuts in particular, can add years to your life. Though he did point out that walnuts have high levels of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and other phytochemicals, along with other nutritional bonuses like calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Stunning anti-cancer benefits
In terms of how and why walnuts are so effective at preventing cancer, one theory is that they contain compounds that easily alter gene activity, and especially where cancer development is concerned.
What we do know is that walnuts are rich in omega-3 fats as well as antioxidants and various plant chemicals. In fact, they’re chock full of antioxidants, with levels higher than those found in most other frequently-recommended foods, including strawberries, coffee, cranberries, pecans, and blueberries (walnuts are surpassed only by blackberries in terms of antioxidant content). Walnuts are especially rich in one well-known antioxidant, vitamin E, which appears to be a major factor in decreasing tumor growth.
Their shockingly high level of ALA — alpha-linolenic acid — makes walnuts unique among other nuts. ALA is a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid needed by the human body. In fact, walnuts are the only nut with significantly high levels of ALA, beating out almonds, peanuts, pistachios, and pecans. And though most nuts have monounsaturated fats, walnuts are the only ones made mostly of polyunsaturated fat.
By the way, don’t get too hung up on the “fatty” side of walnuts. Most nutritionists and weight-loss experts now agree that carbs wreak havoc on your health much more than fats, and eating healthy fats can leave you much more satisfied for longer, so overall you end up eating less. We’ve been brainwashed about saturated fats. Many of them — especially those derived from plants — are the most nutritious foods you could possibly eat.
Other beneficial nutrients in walnuts are phytosterols and melatonin. The natural phytosterols and antioxidants found in walnuts have powerful free-radical scavenging abilities that thwart the spread of cancer. Also, in terms of slowing breast cancer, phytosterols are known to bind to estrogen receptors, which slows the growth of breast cancers, especially those fueled by estrogen.
A delicious (and easy) way to get extra nutrition
Where do you go from here? That’s simple. Eat two handfuls of walnuts a day as part of your regular diet. They’re the perfect go-to snack, with a long shelf-life and no preparation needed. You don’t have to eat them plain, either—just add them to a salad, a vegetable dish, or a fruit mixture. Plus, they’re a local snack. Around 38 percent of all walnuts are grown in the U.S., and almost 90 percent of those come from walnut trees in California.
Make a point of eating them daily, or at least several times a week, and there’s a good chance you’ll either prevent or delay getting struck by cancer—prostate and breast in particular. I eat large amounts of several kinds of nuts myself, including walnuts. Eat them raw — unsalted and unroasted — for maximum nutritional value. Roasting very likely destroys valuable nutrients, and I like them better raw, anyway.
Lately I’ve been taking advantage of almond butter and cashew butter sold at Whole Foods. They’re similar to peanut butter, but made from other nuts. The store makes almond and cashew butters fresh on the premises with no preservatives or sugar — and they’re absolutely delicious.
They seem to keep almost indefinitely, although I refrigerate them just to be on the safe side. They do solidify and lose their creamy texture when chilled, so I take them out of the fridge about an hour before eating to let them warm up. Unfortunately, the store doesn’t offer walnut butter.
There’s another food you should eat to prevent cancer — but possibly you’ve been scared away by some recent news. We looked into it, and in the article below you’ll see what we found out…
Does Fish Oil Actually Cause Cancer?
You may have seen some of these overblown headlines a few weeks ago…
- Omega-3 supplements linked to prostate cancer (Fox News)
- Fish oil supplements linked to prostate cancer (Health News)
- Hold the Salmon: Omega-3 fatty acids linked to higher risk of cancer (CNN)
- Men who take omega-3 supplements at 71% higher risk of prostate cancer (NY Daily News)
Seeing these, you might figure that fish oil, one of the most popular supplements, the subject of hundreds of studies, has been revealed to be a deadly hazard.
And you might also assume the headlines were based on a thorough, careful, scientific study. Normally, that would mean a study where the researchers divided a population of men into two groups — one of which received fish oil supplements and the other a placebo… and found those taking the fish oil supplements got more cancer than the ones who didn’t.
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What the mainstream press “forgot” to tell you
The first thing you need to know is that the study raising all this hoopla was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on July 10th.
It was what’s called an observational study. It was not a double-blind, placebo-controlled study like the sort I just described. There was no tight, rigorous experiment.
In an observational study, the researchers observe a population over a period of time and take note of what the people do or what they’re exposed to in the way of food, exercise and other habits or environmental factors. Then — usually over a long period of time — they look for links between the lifestyle factors and what happens to the participants’ health.
Nearly all the people in this study
were low in omega 3’s
This was NOT a study of fish oil and its possible effects. That came later, as sort of an add-on. No fish oil supplements — or other supplements, for that matter — were given to the people who participated.
And in fact, the participants’ omega-3 blood levels were only about 40% of the levels you’d expect in health-conscious folks who take adequate doses of fish oil.1,2 Note that the researchers just measured how much omega 3 was in the blood. They don’t know whether the men in the study got these essential fatty acids from taking supplements, eating fish, eating flax seed oil, or what. All they know for sure is the levels were low.
But naturally, the media hype-masters completely missed this point. If they’d got the story right, it would be obvious that this study had no meaning to anyone who boosts their omega-3 consumption through supplements and diet.
What’s more, associating the results of a one-time blood test for omega-3 with long-term prostate cancer risk is worse than absurd.
These levels can change quickly as a result of any short-term dietary changes. You had salmon last night? Expect your levels to be higher this morning. This doesn’t mean much for long-term absorption of omega-3 into your cells. The researchers did not use the erythrocyte (red blood cell or RBC) fatty acid test, which gives a far more accurate picture of cellular omega-3 uptake over time. They used a blood plasma test instead. Plasma is just the liquid that holds the blood cells.
Compare this to a study
that actually means something. . .
Life Extension did a case analysis of their staff and found that a healthy diet including fish but not supplementation gave an RBC equivalent of 6.06%. But a standard diet with 3.6 grams of fish oil supplements a day brought the level to 10.59%. This is also consistent with previously published literature.
These numbers should shed light on the glaring flaw that renders the so-called Fish Oil study conclusions meaningless.
- Omega-3 RBC equivalence of a moderate fish eater = 6.06%
- Omega-3 RBC equivalence when taking 3.6 grams/day = 10.59%
- Study group — higher cancer rate group, long-chain omega-3 percentage = 4.66%
- Study group — group with no prostate cancer, long-chain omega-3 percentage = 4.48%
Risky and foolish conclusions
As you can see from those numbers, the difference in omega-3 levels between the cancer and non-cancer groups of the “Fish Oil study” was tiny — 4.66 vs. 4.48. The difference is too small to be significant. At most, you might conclude that fish oil made no difference to the rate of prostate cancer, one way or another. But as already noted, it’s more likely that neither group was getting enough.
Further, their conclusions were based on only one baseline blood draw. Those who developed cancer years later were followed up and their present levels of omega 3’s were compared to their earlier baseline. This methodology is prone to misinterpretation and errors — even if the gap between cancer victims and cancer-free subjects was wide. In this case, there was almost no difference in omega 3 levels between cancer victims and non-victims.
But this wasn’t the end of the problems…
These factors threw off the results
There are numerous confounding factors at the baseline, making the statistical analysis invalid.
- Family history. Risk of prostate cancer increases 120 to 180 percent in men with a father or brother who had prostate cancer. In this study, men who got cancer had nearly double the positive family history compared to controls.
- Higher baseline PSAs. Aging men with PSA readings higher than 2.4 ng/mL are at higher risk of developing clinically relevant prostate cancer.In this study, 41.1% of those who eventually developed prostate cancer had baseline readings higher than 3.0 ng/mL, versus 7.3% of those who didn’t get cancer. That means that many of the eventual cancer victims already had high cancer markers at the very beginning of the study. It is impossible to rationally discount the fact that 5.6 times more men who got cancer already were at a PSA level of 3.0+ at baseline. The mad-mad media, anxious to frame omega-3s, conveniently ignored this “small” factor.
- 53% of the prostate cancer subjects were smokers.3 Don’t you think that might be a more important risk factor than omega 3 fatty acids?
- 64% of those getting cancer regularly consumed alcohol.4
- 80% of the cancer subjects were overweight or obese.5 A 2011 study in PLoS One showed that aggressive prostate cancer was associated with obesity.6 This has been confirmed in other studies. And the obesity link held true in all cases — low-grade, high-grade, early and late stage, nonaggressive and aggressive. The fact that 80% of these men were already heavy is a confounding factor.
Researchers like to say they control for various confounding factors.
But for reasons unknown, these researchers didn’t control for age, race, diet… and who knows what else! For the record, even if they tried to control for diet, in this type of study they’d have to rely on what the subjects SAY they ate. These so-called “food frequency questionnaires” are notoriously inaccurate. Most people can’t even remember every bit of food they ate yesterday, let alone a month ago.
It’s well known that smoking, obesity and frequent alcohol consumption are the biggest risk factors for cancer in general (I should add — not necessarily for prostate cancer). It’s absolutely incredible to home in on a tiny difference in omega-3 blood levels, using a second-rate blood test, as a cause of cancer in these men.
This study can be safely ignored
Quality scientific research is consistent, repeatable, and of course, designed so that other researchers can investigate the same issue in the same way and come to the same conclusions.
Put another way, the result of a study does not mean much if it’s an outlier — that is, a lone wolf — contradicting well-established medical and scientific literature.
In this case, the results are inconsistent with thousands of established studies, and are most likely utter nonsense. They conflict with countless studies showing that increased omega-3s reduce prostate cancer risk… while diets high in omega-6s promote cancer.
Overwhelming evidence favors fish oil supplementation for most people. So much so that even mainstream doctors have been recommending fish oil for the past several years. And not just for cancer, either. Many studies also indicate it prevents heart disease.
Watch out where you get your medical advice!
It’s easy to be deceived if you rely on news sound-bites from mainstream reporters who often don’t know much about the subjects they cover. They simply pick up press releases from hospitals or universities trying to get into the news and get their 15 minutes of fame. If the scientists have enough letters after their names and an affiliation with a high-prestige institution, the reporters accept it all as gospel truth.
In addition, advertising from the big drug companies is important to almost every media news outlet. I know for a fact the drug companies intimidate uncooperative media outlets by threatening to pull all their ads. “Uncooperative” means carrying favorable stories about supplements or alternative health, or carrying negative stories about prescription drugs. The easiest way for news outlets to keep these major advertisers happy is to trash supplements. So you’d be wise to remain skeptical when the mainstream media screams that a supplement is bad for you.
Especially when it’s based on one or two studies that fly in the face of the bulk of clinical research that you’ve been hearing about for years. Perhaps more studies are needed — no harm in that — but the way things stand, there’s way too strong a body of evidence to throw out your fish oil supplements based on one not-very-well-constructed study with the problems this one had.
Finally, this may be the first study to attack a supplement (or food) where the human subjects weren’t even taking the supplement or food at any kind of significant level.
Other ways to get your essential oils
By the way, fish and fish oil aren’t the only ways to get omega 3 fatty acids and other valuable nutrients found in healthy fats.
Also consider evening primrose oil (I take it), pumpkin oil, high linoleic safflower and sunflower oil, and organic flax oil (I take this one in the form of fresh-ground flax seed, which avoids the problem of spoilage). I also eat coconut oil, just about the healthiest food on earth.
There are also those who suggest that krill is a better source of omega 3’s than fish oil because it comes with its own antioxidants included, sidestepping spoilage issues.
With both flax seed oil and fish oil — whatever form you take — make sure they aren’t rancid. Look for a brand that’s high quality, purified, and uses a non-permeable caplet to minimize oxidation (oxidation is a fancy way of saying “going rancid”). I think it’s best to refrigerate these supplements. With flax seed oil, refrigeration is a must.
Lee Euler, Publisher