Nuts for breast health

Breast cancer remains the most common cancer for Australian women representing around 28 per cent of all cancers. Breast lumps that are not cancerous (benign breast disease) are a common finding in women of all ages, but are particularly common during the reproductive years. In about 11 per cent of cases breast lumps are associated with cancer so the presence of breast lumps does represent a slight increase in cancer risk. According to a new study though, eating nuts and even peanut butter can reduce the chances of a woman developing breast lumps.

The study involved data gathered on 9,000 schoolgirls recruited between 1999 and 2001. This included detailed information about food consumption gathered via food frequency questionnaires.
The data also included reports from the girls between 2005 and 2010, when they were 18 to 30 years old, that indicated whether they had ever been diagnosed with biopsy-confirmed benign breast disease.

When they compared the two sets of data, the researchers found that participants who had eaten peanut butter or nuts twice a week were 39 per cent less likely than women who never ate those foods to receive a diagnosis for benign breast disease. Additionally the data suggest legumes like soy, beans, and lentils may also be linked to reduced risk of benign breast disease, but because they did not feature as much in the diets of these girls, the evidence was not so strong. Corn showed a similar relationship as did the legumes.

Another interesting finding was that girls with a family history of breast cancer had significantly lower risk if they consumed these foods or vegetable fat.

This is not the first study to find that nuts reduce the chance of breast disease but it is the first to show a relationship between diet during childhood and a woman’s chance of breast disease. Overall the conclusion is that older girls who eat vegetable protein, fat, peanut butter, or nuts may help reduce their risk of benign breast disease as young women. Given the generally healthy nature of raw unsalted nuts, going nuts may not be so crazy after all.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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