The Snack That Prevents Breast Cancer
You never want to hear this from a doctor: “You have breast cancer.”
But sadly breast cancer strikes one in every seven women. And in North America, a woman dies of the disease every 12 minutes.
Pink campaigns raise billions of dollars every year to find “the cure.” And mainstream medicine has built a whole industry around mammograms and breast cancer treatments, like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
But one thing the cancer industry does not want to talk about is prevention.You see, a breast cancer patient can pay more than $100,000 for treatment. But natural prevention? Well, you just can’t charge very much for that.
So the cancer industry wants you to believe there’s nothing you can do to prevent breast cancer. They’ll tell you it’s genetic. Or it’s just bad luck.
But, in fact, we know that 80% of breast cancer is driven by diet and the environment. Change your diet and you change your risk.
In other words, you CAN prevent breast cancer.
For more than 25 years, I’ve been helping my patients avoid cancer treatments by preventing breast cancer in the first place. It all starts with food.
The modern, American diet may be the No.1 risk factor for breast cancer. In the famous Shanghai Breast Cancer Study, researchers found that women who abandoned their traditional diets and started eating a Western-style diet of processed foods and sugar increased their breast cancer risk by 60% to 90%.1
You can start with small changes. As I’ve told my patients for years, just a handful of walnuts a day can help keep breast cancer away.
Research shows that antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, phytosterols, and flavonoids in walnuts are responsible for their cancer-fighting powers.2
You see, when it comes to nuts, walnuts have the highest antioxidant value. In fact, they have almost twice as many healthful antioxidants as any other nut. And walnut antioxidants have the highest quality and pack the most punch. One study measured the antioxidants in walnuts as 2 to 15 times more potent than vitamin E.3
Another reason walnuts help prevent cancer is that they’re rich in omega-3 fats. Research shows that an extract from omega-3-rich walnuts can stop the spread of breast cancer cells.4
In one study, researchers gave omega-3 supplements from walnuts to mice bred to have breast cancer. The supplements helped prevent breast cancer from developing. And those that got cancer reduced the size and number of their tumors.5
In another study, just a handful of walnuts (2 ounces) a day, delayed the onset of cancerous tumors in mice.6
Omega-3s from walnuts get absorbed into cell membranes. There they help cancer cells self-destruct. They also reduce an inflammatory enzyme called COX-2, which promotes breast cancer.
Walnuts also contain phytosterols. Studies show these nutrients can inhibit tumors from forming in the breast. They can also shrink existing tumors.7
Another unique compound in walnuts is ellagic acid. This powerful flavonoid works by protecting healthy cells from free radical damage. It also helps detox cancer-causing cells. And it helps prevent cancer cells from reproducing.
Ellagic acid works at the genetic level. For example, there is a certain kind of microRNA signal that is a marker for developing breast cancer. In one study, not only did ellagic acid stop breast cancer tumor formation; it also reversed the dysfunction in the microRNA!8
Even though walnuts are so healthful, some of my patients still hesitate to eat them. They worry about the calories. I don’t.
Research shows that nut eaters are more slender than those who don’t eat nuts. A Harvard study found eating more nuts was associated with a significantly lower risk of weight gain and obesity.9
When I was growing up in Kentucky, my grandparents had a grove of walnut trees. So I ate lots of walnuts. My grandmother cooked with them, baked with them, and we ate them by the handful for snacks. She always said they were good for you. And she was right.
Look for walnuts marked organic and raw. Otherwise they may be irradiated and pasteurized, killing some of the nutrients.
If you’re buying walnuts in the shell, make sure the shells don’t have any defects like little wormholes. Give the shells a little shake. If they rattle, they’re probably old and dried up.
Store shelled walnuts in an airtight package. You can keep them up to about six months in the refrigerator or up to a year in the freezer.
Once walnuts are removed from the shell, the high oil content makes them very perishable. They can become rancid. Look for a freshness date on the package. Keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer and they’ll last for several months.
Aside from popping walnuts in your mouth, there are many ways to enjoy them. Sprinkle a handful on your salad or yogurt, or experiment with your favorite recipes. I like to add them to chicken salad or sautéed vegetables.
The papery covering of a walnut is a little bitter. But don’t let that stop you. Up to 90% of walnut antioxidants are in that flaky cover so it’s worth eating.
There’s one other thing to keep in mind about walnuts and other nuts. They’re high in phytic acid. This compound protects the nuts from predators in nature. But when humans eat the nut, the phytic acid binds to minerals in the gut. It can cause some irritation and may lead to nutrient deficiencies.
To neutralize phytic acid, I soak my walnuts for at least seven hours in salted water. Then I dry the nuts on a cookie sheet in the oven for 12 to 24 hours at the lowest heat (200 degrees F). You could also use a dehydrator. The result is a crunchier nut that’s easier to digest.
To your good health,
Al Sears, MD
1. Xiaohui Cui et al. “Dietary Patterns and Breast Cancer Risk in the Shanghai Breast Cancer Study.” Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev July 2007 16; 1443
2. W Elaine Hardman, Gabriela Ion, Juliana A Akinsete, Theodore R Witte. “Dietary Walnut Suppressed Mammary Gland Tumorigenesis in the C(3)1 TAg Mouse.” Nutr Cancer. 2011;63(6):960-70.
3. Joe A Vinson, Yuxing Cai. “Nuts, especially walnuts, have both antioxidant quantity and efficacy and exhibit significant potential health benefits.” Food Funct. 2012;3(2):134-40.
4. Vanden Heuvel J, Belda B, Hannon D, Kris-Etherton P, Grieger J, Zhang J, Thompson J. “Mechanistic examination of walnuts in prevention of breast cancer.” Nutr Cancer. 2012;64(7):1078-86.
5. MacLennan M, Clarke S, Perez K, Wood G, Muller W, Kang J, Ma D. “Mammary tumor development is directly inhibited by lifelong n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.” J Nutr Biochem. 2013;24(1):388-95.
6. “Walnuts slow growth of breast cancer tumors.” W V Med J. 2008 Nov-Dec;104(6):36.
7. A.B. Awad et al. “?-Sitosterol activates Fas signaling in human breast cancer cells,” Phytomedicine 2007;Volume 14, Issue 11, Pages 747-754.
8. Munagala R, Aqil F, Vadhanam M, Gupta R. “MicroRNA ‘signature’ during estrogen-mediated mammary carcinogenesis and its reversal by ellagic acid intervention.” Cancer Lett. 2013 Jun 18. pii:S0304-3835(13)00462-X.
9. Bes-Rastrollo M et al, “Prospective study of nut consumption, long-term weight change, and obesity risk in women.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89(6):1913-9.