Nuts have always been the “forgotten” elements of your food pyramid. We crave our grains and dairy, get all the protein we need and more from our burgers and steaks, but unless we are making a point of peppering our salads with a generous helping of slivered almonds (which presumes we are even making a point of eating salads to begin with...), we're probably a few pyramid bricks low on the nut side.
That's a shame, especially if you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
In a large prospective study published online in the British Journal of Cancer, researchers looked at the association between nut consumption and prostate cancer risk and mortality among 47,299 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. While nut consumption was not associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer, men who had prostate cancer and consumed tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts) five or more times per week after diagnosis, had a significant 34 percent lower risk of overall mortality than those who consumed nuts less than once per month.
"This is important," states lead researcher, Ying Bao, MD, ScD, from the Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, "since more men live with prostate cancer than die from it." Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed and second most lethal cancer for men in the U.S.
According to Dr. Bao, of the 4,346 men diagnosed with non-metastatic (cancer that has not spread from the place where it started to other places in the body) prostate cancer during the 26 years of follow-up, only about 10 percent died from prostate cancer. Roughly one third of the cancer patients died from cardiovascular disease and the rest from other causes.
Increasing evidence suggests that insulin resistance, a condition in which the cells of the body become resistant to the hormone insulin, is involved in prostate cancer risk and progression. Tree nuts have been associated with improved insulin sensitivity and reduced risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and total mortality. Nuts contain important nutrients such as unsaturated fats, high quality protein, vitamins (i.e., vitamin E, folate and niacin) minerals (i.e., magnesium, calcium and potassium) and phytochemicals – all of which may offer cardioprotective, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.