Eating brazil nuts, cashews, pecans and other popular varieties could make women less likely to develop pancreatic cancer, a study has suggested. Researchers found a handful of nuts twice a week is enough to significantly reduce the risk of contracting the disease. Nuts (and seeds) can also be a great addition to fruit smoothie.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly forms of cancer in western countries, with smoking and obesity thought to be the two leading causes. But the disease is also associated with a form of diabetes known as diabetes mellitus, which can be inhibited by tree nuts – the family that also includes almonds, pistachios and walnuts. Tree nuts contain a range of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, the compounds which give plants their colour, smell and other physical qualities.

The results, published by the British Journal of Cancer, come from a detailed study of more than 75,000 women in the US, none of whom had any history of the disease. Researcher Dr Ying Bao of Harvard Medical School and Utah’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, looked at the connection between pancreatic cancer and nut consumption.

Nuts can be fattening, which is a factor in many forms of cancer, but the study showed women who consumed the most nuts tended to be slimmer than average.

The report does not say if this is down to other factors of their lifestyle – such as exercise – or eating nuts instead of less healthy, calorie-laden snacks such as chocolate. But Dr Bao said: “Women who consumed a one-ounce serving of nuts two or more times per week had a significantly reduced risk of pancreatic cancer compared to those who largely abstained from nuts.

“This reduction in risk was independent of established or suspected risk factors for pancreatic cancer including age, height, obesity, physical activity, smoking, diabetes and dietary factors.”

He added: “In our cohort women who consumed the most nuts tended to weigh less.”

Nuts have been shown to have several health benefits in recent years.

Almonds, walnuts, cashews and were found to reduce to risk of heart attacks by more than 10 per cent following a large European study looking into the links between diet and cancer and heart disease. Only two servings a week of eight grams of nuts, enough to cover a small plate, is enough to decrease the risk, according to the study presented to the World Congress of Cardiology.

Moreover, a 2012 study found pregnant woman who eat nuts are less likely to have children who developed allergies.
Researchers at the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen discovered children of women who eat peanuts and other nuts during pregnancy are a third less likely to suffer from asthma by the age of seven, compared to those whose mothers avoid them.

The report contradicted a series of studies in the 1980s, that purported to find evidence of a link between nut-eating during pregnancy and allergic response.

Colin Michie, chairman of nutrition at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said the results revealed previous studies to be weak.


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