When Angelina Jolie had her double mastectomy, the media hailed her as brave and a hero for women's health. Angelina had the procedure because she had a clear genetic predisposition for breast cancer. While this surgery can almost eliminate the risk of breast cancer (up to 95% risk reduction) it doesn't come without its own risks.
Mastectomy, like any surgery, increases your risk of bleeding and infection. But it also can have a dramatic impact on your sex life. It can destroy nipple sensation, hindering sexual arousal. And it can force you into an early menopause. This is called surgical menopause. And that can bring about an abrupt onset of menopausal symptoms. This includes hot flashes, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. What's more, some of these symptoms can be severe.
It gets worse. Surgical menopause can have long-term effects that include decreased sex drive, vaginal dryness, and decreased bone density. In other words, it can cause osteoporosis. This is all worth it if you don't have to suffer through breast cancer, chemo, radiation, and eventual death.
But what if you could avoid this surgery and reduce your risk of breast cancer by 50% or more? Would you be interested?
Well, a new study says that you can do just that simply by adding a couple of ounces of walnuts to your diet every day. I know that sounds almost too simple to believe. But this study is impressive.
The researchers from Marshall University in Virginia started out by genetically engineering a group of mice to get breast cancer. That makes them similar to a person with a genetic predisposition to get the disease. They fed the mice the exact same diet, but they gave one group of mice the equivalent of two ounces of walnuts per day for a human. The results were fantastic.
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The mice that ate the walnuts developed breast cancer less than half as often as those mice that didn't eat the walnuts. And the walnut-eating mice that did develop breast cancer had tumors that were much smaller in size and number, making them easier to treat. That means they didn't spread as fast, which makes them much easier to treat and less life-threatening.
Remember, these mice were genetically programmed to develop cancer at a high rate. The lead researcher said, "We were able to reduce the risk for cancer even in the presence of a preexisting genetic mutation."
The reason walnuts fight breast cancer is because they provide a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids along with vitamin E. According to the university press release: "Using genetic analysis, the Marshall study found that the walnut-containing diet changed the activity of multiple genes that are relevant to breast cancer in both mice and humans. Other testing showed that increases in omega-3 fatty acids did not fully account for the anti-cancer effect, and found that tumor growth decreased when dietary vitamin E increased."
I've often said that genes are not set in stone — you can alter them. And it appears that the omega-3 fatty acid, vitamin E, and other nutrients in walnuts can alter the genes that encourage breast cancer. So if you're looking to avoid breast cancer, add a couple ounces of walnuts to your diet every day. It could help you avoid unnecessary surgery and the devastating disease. Plus, they taste great.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening is the editor of Nutrient Insider, a twice-a-week email newsletter that brings you the latest healing breakthroughs from the world of nutrition and dietary supplements. For over 20 years, Steve has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Robert Rowen, Frank Shallenberger, Nan Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.