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Originally published December 14 2009

Nutty news from scientists: pistachios reduce lung cancer risk

by S. L. Baker, features writer

(NaturalNews) Researchers have reported over the past year that nuts offer a wide range of health benefits -- from helping fight the pre-diabetic condition known as metabolic syndrome ( to preventing age-related blindness ( and lowering breast cancer risk ( Now there's even more good news about nuts. According to data presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference held in Houston recently, eating a handful of pistachios daily may protect you from lung cancer.

"It is known that vitamin E provides a degree of protection against certain forms of cancer. Higher intakes of gamma-tocopherol, which is a form of vitamin E, may reduce the risk of lung cancer," Ladia M. Hernandez, a PhD candidate at Texas Women's University and a senior research dietitian in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, said in a statement to the press. "Pistachios are a good source of gamma-tocopherol. Eating them increases intake of gamma-tocopherol so pistachios may help to decrease lung cancer risk."

Pistachios have already been shown in previous studies to be a heart-healthy food. The nuts have a cholesterol-lowering effect and are loaded with immune system boosting antioxidants. Hernandez and her research team conducted a six-week, controlled clinical trial to investigate whether the consumption of pistachios would increase levels of gamma-tocopherol in the body.

Their study, which was at conducted at Texas Woman's University in Houston, involved 36 healthy research subjects. The participants were randomized into a control group and an intervention group. For two weeks, both groups ate their normal diets so the scientists could take baseline measurements. Then for four weeks the control group continued on their regular diet while the other study participants added 68 grams (about 2 ounces or 117 kernels) of pistachios to their diets each day.

By weeks three and four, the scientists found that the research subjects eating pistachios had significantly higher serum gamma-tocopherol levels, compared to their baseline measurements and the vitamin E levels measured in the control group not eating the nuts. This substantially increased amount of gamma-tocopherol in the body of pistachio eaters could help lower the risk of not only lung cancer but other malignancies, as well. "Because epidemiologic studies suggest gamma-tocopherol is protective against prostate cancer, pistachio intake may help," Hernandez said.

But what about the added calories? Hernandez explained the amount of pistachios needed to lower the risk of cancer isn't enough to pack on extra pounds. "Pistachios are one of those 'good-for-you' nuts, and two ounces per day could be incorporated into dietary strategies designed to reduce the risk of lung cancer without significant changes in body mass index," she stated.

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