People with stage III colon cancer who regularly eat nuts are at significantly lower risk of cancer recurrence and mortality than those who don’t, according to a new, large study led by researchers at Yale Cancer Center.
The findings were published Thursday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The study followed 826 participants in a clinical trial for a median of 6.5 years after they were treated with surgery and chemotherapy.
Those who regularly consumed at least two, one-ounce servings of nuts each week demonstrated a 42 per cent improvement in disease-free survival and a 57 per cent improvement in overall survival.
“Further analysis of this cohort revealed that disease-free survival increased by 46 per cent among the subgroup of nut consumers who ate tree nuts rather than peanuts,” said Charles S. Fuchs, M.D., M.P.H., director of Yale Cancer Center and senior author of the study.
Tree nuts include almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, and pecans, among others. In contrast, peanuts are actually in the legumes family of foods.
“These findings are in keeping with several other observational studies that indicate that a slew of healthy behaviors, including increased physical activity, keeping a healthy weight, and lower intake of sugar and sweetened beverages, improve colon cancer outcomes,” said Temidayo Fadelu, M.D., a postdoctoral fellow at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and lead author of the paper.
“The results highlight the importance of emphasizing dietary and life-style factors in colon cancer survivorship.”
Additionally, the researchers emphasized, the study highlighted connections between biological mechanisms that worsen disease not just in colon cancer but in certain chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes.
Many previous studies have reported that nuts, among other health benefits, may help to reduce insulin resistance, a condition in which the body has difficulty processing the insulin hormone. Insulin resistance leads to unhealthy levels of sugar in the blood and is often a predecessor to type 2 diabetes and related illnesses.
Earlier research among patients with colon cancer has revealed worse outcomes among those with lifestyle factors that heighten insulin resistance, such as obesity, lack of exercise, and a diet with high levels of carbohydrates that quickly raise levels of blood sugar.