When breast cancer comes back after the initial treatment, it’s a scary thing. So, how do you lower the chance of recurrent breast cancer? Research shows that a healthy diet reduces the risk of breast cancer, but studies don’t always apply to breast cancer recurrence. Fortunately, scientists are paying attention to the problem and looking for ways you can reduce your risk simply with what you eat. New evidence suggests that nuts are some of the best foods that prevent breast cancer recurrence and death.
According to the study published in the International Journal of Cancer, long-term breast cancer survivors have a lower chance of developing the disease again and dying from it when they eat more nuts. The main nuts the researchers tested in the study include peanuts and tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, and pistachios).
A Closer Look at the Nutty Research
To better understand the relationship between nuts and the risk of breast cancer, researchers analyzed data from participants in the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study based in China. They focused in on 3,449 patients who survived for over five years since they had first been diagnosed. All participants completed a detailed dietary assessment in follow-up interviews.
Over five years, the team collected information on the participants’ cancer stages and any treatments they received, such as surgery, mastectomy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy. The researchers also conducted regular in-person surveys to assess diet. They asked the participants how frequently they ate nuts and converted those numbers into grams per week. Based on that information, they split the participants into two groups: Those who consumed nuts and those who did not.
In addition, the investigators analyzed the diets and lifestyles of the participants to determine which factors could undermine their research. “Compared with non-consumers … Nut consumers were more likely to have a higher education, higher personal income, higher physical activity level, and received immunotherapy,” lead study author Takashi Takeshita, MD, and his team explained. As such, the study authors made sure to account for these factors in their final analysis.
The Results of the Study
After analyzing all the data, the team found that 3,148 of the 2,449 participants ate nuts to some degree. Of all the participants, 374 died about eight years after the study. Breast cancer caused 252 of those deaths.
The researchers found that those who ate nuts were up to 50 percent less likely to develop a breast cancer recurrence or die from breast cancer later in life. Nut consumers also had a higher disease-free survival rate. That means they were more likely to survive with no disease present as compared to non-consumers. In addition, the benefit followed a dose-response relationship. In other words, the higher the intake, the lower the chance of breast cancer recurrence.
Why Nuts Are Among the Top Foods That Prevent Breast Cancer
As noted by the research team, the nutrients in nuts that boost heart and brain health may also have a positive impact on breast cancer. “Nuts are rich in several pro-health nutrients, including unsaturated fatty acids, protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and other bioactive constituents such as … phenolic compounds,” Takeshita and his team said. Phenolic compounds make up polyphenols, which are plant compounds that are rich in antioxidants. Previous research from Nutrients shows that a diet high in polyphenols can lower the risk of certain cancers.
In addition, the study authors believe that certain nutrients inside nuts may help stop the growth of certain breast cancer cells. Those nutrients may therefore prevent breast cancer recurrence. Eating nuts can also lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and reduce the risk of heart disease. As a result, nuts may improve the overall health of a person who once had breast cancer, and lower their risk of death from any cause.
So, if you want to eat more foods that prevent breast cancer, stock up on nuts! The American Heart Association says that a small handful of about 1.5 ounces or two tablespoons of nut butter is an adequate serving. Four servings of unsalted peanuts or tree nuts per week is plenty to reap the benefits. Because nuts are so nutrient dense, you won’t need more than that. If you combine your nut intake with a healthy diet, you may add more healthy years to your life.
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