Scientists at the Yale Cancer Center found including nuts in the diet could make a big difference in colon cancer survival. The food halved the risk of recurrence and death.
In the study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, 826 participants with stage 3 colon cancer were followed for a median of 6.5 years while they underwent surgery and chemotherapy. They completed two food-frequency questionnaires that included 131 food items and supplements: one was done four months after surgery and the other was done 14 months after surgery.
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Examination of the data showed the individuals who ate at least two one-ounce servings of nuts per week had a 42-percent higher likelihood of disease-free survival compared to those who didn’t eat nuts. They also had a 57-percent greater chance of overall survival.
The authors made a distinction between peanuts and tree nuts. Peanuts are actually legumes, while tree nuts include pecans, almonds, walnuts, cashews and hazel nuts.
“Further analysis of this cohort revealed that disease-free survival increased by 46% among the subgroup of nut consumers who ate tree nuts rather than peanuts,” said senior author Charles S. Fuchs, M.D., M.P.H., director of Yale Cancer Center.
Nuts Reduce Insulin Resistance
In addition to the colon cancer benefit, the researchers noted that nuts have properties that are protective against certain chronic diseases. The food helps lower insulin resistance, a condition that leads to higher levels of glucose in the blood and often results in type 2 diabetes and related disorders.
Prior studies on colon cancer patients show lower survival rates among those with lifestyle factors that increase insulin resistance. These include a lack of exercise, obesity and a diet high in simple carbohydrates like sugar and white-flour products, which cause blood sugar levels to spike quickly.
“These studies support the hypothesis that behaviors that make you less insulin resistant, including eating nuts, seem to improve outcomes in colon cancer,” Fuchs said.
Fat Content of Nuts Doesn’t Lead to Weight Gain
Another possible advantage of nuts is that their high fat content doesn’t appear to promote weight gain, added Fuchs. “People ask me if increasing nut consumption will lead to obesity, which leads to worse outcomes,” he said. “But what’s really interesting is that in our studies, and across the scientific literature in general, regular consumers of nuts tend to be leaner.”
Coffee Increases Colon Cancer Survival
In an earlier study, Fuchs and his team observed a significant association between drinking coffee and lower colon cancer recurrence and mortality.
Fuchs related lifestyle recommendations he gives to his patients. “First and foremost I talk about avoiding obesity, exercising regularly and staying away from a high-carbohydrate diet,” he said. “Then we talk about things like coffee and nuts. If you like coffee or nuts, enjoy them, and if you don’t, there are many other helpful steps you can take.
“Overall, we are working to apply the same rigorous science to the understanding of diet and lifestyles in the colon cancer patient population that we apply to defining new drugs,” Fuchs said.
You can read more about this study in our article Drinking Coffee May Ward Off Colon Cancer.
What Do Other Studies Show About the Health Benefits of Nuts?
Researchers don’t yet know all the reasons underlying the health benefits of nuts, but studies increasingly provide evidence of their value. Research shows a link between nut consumption and a higher likelihood of survival from prostate cancer, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and greater longevity in general. Moreover, one study found almonds are associated with healthier cholesterol levels and a smaller waist circumference.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.