A recent study reveals that a walnut-rich diet can be effective in fighting prostate cancer while lowering cholesterol and increasing insulin sensitivity.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer in men after skin cancer. Prostate cancer was responsible for the death of about 28,000 Americans in 2011.

Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acid, which is believed to reduce a man's probability of developing prostate cancer. However, past studies have also pointed out that omega-3 alone cannot prevent cancer.

The latest study conducted by the researchers at the University of California (UC) Davis found that walnut, as well as walnut oil, had the potential to increase hormone IGF-1 in a man and reduce the risks of prostate cancer.

Paul Davis, lead scientist of the study, also reveals that both walnuts and walnut oil can also reduce cholesterol level in the body and increase insulin sensitivity.

The recent study involved feeding lab mice with either walnut oil, walnuts or a mixture of fats that had the same omega-3 fatty acid as found in walnuts for 18 weeks. The researchers found that walnuts or walnut oil acted similarly and slowed down the growth of prostate tumor and reduced cholesterol in the mice. However, the fats mixture that contained omega-3 did not have any effect on the growth of prostate tumor in the lab animals.

Davis pointed out that it is not omega-3 on its own that averts prostate cancer but it is the combination of the fatty acids along with other compounds of walnuts or walnut oil that prevents prostate tumor growth. However, the study did not highlight the exact compound combination of walnuts that slows prostate cancer growth.

"The energy effects from decreasing IGF-1 seem to muck up the works so the cancer can't grow as fast as it normally would," says Davis. "Also, reducing cholesterol means cancer cells may not get enough of it to allow these cells to grow quickly."

The study also found that walnut consumption increases the chemical adiponectin and PSP94, which is a tumor suppressor.

Findings of the study on mice cannot be translated to humans just yet. However, the researchers suggest that walnuts have many health benefits for humans and should be introduced in one's regular diet.

The study is published in the Journal of Medicinal Food.

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