Walnut component lowers risk of prostate cancer

walnutsResearch findings from a University of California Davis study suggest that substances found in the walnut have the potential of slowing prostate cancer growth. Previously researchers attributed the health benefits to the walnut’s omega 3 content. Now the new study has clarified that the health impact is attributed to a walnut component apart from omega 3 fatty acids.

The study, published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, has clearly revealed that walnuts reduce prostate tumors in mice.

“For years, the US government has been on a crusade against fat, and I think it’s been to our detriment,” says Davis. “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.”

To differentiate which part of the walnut is responsible for its health effects, the team used a mixture of fats with the same omega-3 fatty acid content as walnuts for their control diet.

The research findings revealed that the walnuts and walnut oil lowered cholesterol and slowed prostate cancer growth, but the control fat diet did not, suggesting it is other components of the walnut, not the omega-3s, that are conferring these benefits. Walnut consumption also adjusted certain mechanisms linked to cancer growth, decreasing insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) – a growth hormone previously implicated in prostate and breast cancer; increased adiponectin and the tumor suppressor PSP94 and decreased COX-2, which are all markers for a reduced risk of prostate cancer.

“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,” said Davis. “It’s becoming increasingly clear in nutrition that it’s never going to be just one thing; it’s always a combination.”


TRAMP prostate tumor growth is slowed by walnut diets through altered IGF-1 levels, energy pathways, and cholesterol metabolism, Paul Davis, et al., Journal of Medicinal Food, doi:10.1089/jmf.2014.0061, published 29 October 2014.

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