Study shows eating just a handful twice a week can reduce the risk by a third
Eating a handful of nuts just twice a week could slash the risk of developing one of the most lethal forms of cancer.
New research shows snacking on one ounce of nuts two or more time a week can reduce the chances of pancreatic cancer by more than a third.
The study, carried out at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, USA, did not differentiate between different types of edible nuts – suggesting having them as a regular snack is more important than eating one type over another.
The findings, published online in the British Journal of Cancer, offer some hope in the prevention of a disease which has a high mortality rate.
Every year, around 8,000 people in UK alone are diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas, a pear-shaped organ about six inches long that lies deep inside the body between the stomach and the spine.
Its job is to produce enzymes that help to break down food and release insulin to control blood sugar levels.
The cause remains largely unknown, although smokers may have a slightly higher risk, as do those who have suffered chronic pancreatitis – a persistent infection often brought on by gall stones, or frequent binge drinking.
Some studies suggest having diabetes is also a risk factor.
Many sufferers only discover a problem when they experience considerable and unexpected weight loss, caused by the cancer eating away at their digestive system.
It is widely regarded as one of the most lethal of all tumours, killing around 97 per cent of its victims within five years. Many only live a matter of months.
Although previous studies have suggested nuts may have anti-cancer properties when eaten as part of a healthy diet, the evidence remains inconclusive.
The Harvard team wanted to investigate whether eating them had any effect specifically on the incidence of pancreatic cancer.
They used data from the Nurses’ Health Study, a long-running investigation into all aspects of health among thousands of female nurses in the US.
The researchers took a sample of more than 75,000 women and studied the incidence of pancreatic cancer. They then looked at nut consumption among the cancer victims, compared to healthy volunteers who did not have the disease.
The results showed that eating a one ounce serving of nuts two or more times a week lowered the risk of a tumour by 35 per cent compared to women who rarely or never ate them.
Even when researchers allowed for other factors that might have increased the risks – such as whether they were overweight or had a history of diabetes – they found nuts still had a significant benefit.
In a report on their findings the researchers said: ‘Frequent nut consumption is inversely associated with the risk of pancreatic cancer, independent of other potential risk factors for the disease.’