Researchers from The University of California, Davis (UC DAVIS) in US conducted experiments on mice models and found that eating a diet high in walnuts slowed growth of prostate cancer in the animals.Chris Brown/Flickr

Adding walnuts to one's daily diet can keep prostate cancer at bay, latest research shows.

Researchers, from The University of California, Davis (UC DAVIS), conducted experiments on mice models and found that eating a diet high in walnuts slowed growth of prostate cancer in the animals.

"For years, the United States government has been on a crusade against fat, and I think it's been to our detriment," said lead scientist and research nutritionist Paul Davis, in a news release. "Walnuts are a perfect example. While they are high in fat, their fat does not drive prostate cancer growth. In fact, walnuts do just the opposite when fed to mice."

They also noticed that regular consumption of walnuts helped manage cholesterol and insulin sensitivity. Rodents fed on walnuts had lower levels of hormone IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1) than others.

IGF-1 is crucial for proper growth at childhood, but research in the past has linked it to the development of colon, breast and prostate cancer in people aged 40 and above.

"The energy effects from decreasing IGF-1 seem to muck up the works so the cancer can't grow as fast as it normally would," Davis explained. "Also, reducing cholesterol means cancer cells may not get enough of it to allow these cells to grow quickly."

Interestingly, the team also found that walnut consumption facilitated the creation of an anti-cancer environment. They noticed that mice fed on walnuts had markers that reduced risk of prostate cancer: high levels of adiponectin and the tumour suppressor PSP94 and low levels of COX-2.

As a next step, the researchers wanted to analyse which nutrient in walnut provided the anti-cancer effect. For that, they fed mice whole walnuts, walnut oil or fats similar to omega-3 for a period of 18 weeks. Results confirmed that omega-3 fatty acid had little role in this occurrence.

Rodents placed on the walnut diet achieved a significant drop in cholesterol levels and also a reduction in the speed of tumour growth than the animals who received the omega-3 like fat. Researchers concluded that a combination of certain components must have provided these health benefits than the omega-3 fatty acid alone.

Similarly, the researchers also found that even fibre, zinc, magnesium and selenium had some role in the process.

"We showed that it's not the omega-3s by themselves, though, it could be a combination of the omega-3s with whatever else is in the walnut oil," Davis said.

Know More about Walnuts: Some Nutritional Facts

Walnuts contain several important nutrients and minerals required for a healthy growth. They are good sources of potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, sodium, manganese, zinc, copper, selenium, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins( vitamin C, vitamin B1, B2, folate, Vitamin B6, vitamin A, E and K).

Eating Walnuts: Some Other Health Benefits

Following are some health benefits associated with eating walnuts proved by previous research and provided by Mercola.com:

  • Prevents cardiovascular diseases
  • Protects against Alzheimer's disease
  • Fights cancer
  • Fights obesity
  • Improves male fertility
  • Good for improving the quality of life in diabetes