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Can increased Nut Consumption Increase the Risk of Esophageal and Gastric Cancers?

Jan 3, 2020

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High consumption of nuts and peanut butter was helpful in lowering risk of some gastric cancers while having no association of risk with other esophageal or gastric cancer subtypes, as per a large health and diet study. Hence, using nuts and peanut butter as part of a healthy diet/nutrition may help reduce the risk of certain cancer types.

Nuts are a type of food which are popular throughout the world and one that no one would ever feel guilty eating an excess off. Whether it is the consumption of peanuts and peanut butter in the United States, cashews in India, or pistachios in Turkey, those who are able to consume nuts generally do not stray away from snacking and utilizing these delicious dry fruits. In fact, nuts are advertised as and generally believed to be extremely good for one’s health. The vitamins and minerals present in nuts have also shown an ability to decrease the risk of certain cancers such as colorectal and lung cancers but studies have not shown how nut consumption could potentially affect the risk of esophageal and gastric cancers.

Nut and Peanut butter Use (diet) & Cancer Risk

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Nut/Peanut Butter Consumption & Cancer Risk

To test out the effect nut and peanut butter consumption has on these specific cancer subtypes, there was a study done in 2017 by researchers at the National Cancer Institute in the USA. The data obtained for this study was from a NIH-AARP (National Institute of Health – American Association of Retired Persons) diet and health study which consisted of 566,407 people aged 50-71. Validated questionnaires were used on the participants of this study to figure out their daily nut consumption averages and the average follow up time for each participant was about 15.5 years. After analyzing the data from this study based on the number of people who were diagnosed with a type of esophageal and gastric cancers, researchers have found that participants with the highest consumption of nuts (C3) had a lower risk of developing gastric non-cardia adenocarcinoma compared to those who did not consume any nuts (C0) (Hashemian M et al, Am J Clin Nutr., 2017). The above association of lower gastric adenocarcinoma prevalence was also found to be true for high peanut butter consumption as well. However, there was no correlation found between an increased nut consumption and an increased or decreased risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma, esophageal squamous cell carcinoma and the stomach cancer that occurs in the first part that is closest to esophagus, gastric cardia adenocarcinoma.

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Another independent study from the Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands also analyzed a similar association of nut and peanut butter consumption on gastric and esophageal cancers in 120,852 males and females, aged 55-69 years, who completed a baseline questionnaire on diet, with a follow-up time of 20.3 years. They confirm the results from the NIH study where they found that high nut and peanut butter consumption was associated with a lower risk of gastric non-cardia adenocarcinoma and possibly esophageal squamous cell carcinoma but no association was found with other gastric and esophageal cancer subtypes (Nieuwenhuis L and van den Brandt PA, Gastric Cancer, 2018).


In summary, these studies show that increased consumption of nuts (as part of healthy diet) was either helpful in lowering the risk of some gastric cancers while having no association of risk with other esophageal or gastric cancer subtypes. Therefore, we can continue eating and enjoying nuts and peanut butter for its other health benefits without worry of negative impact related to cancer risks.

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Cancer changes with time. Customize and modify your nutrition based on cancer indication, treatments, lifestyle, food preferences, allergies and other factors.

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Scientifically Reviewed by: Dr. Cogle

Christopher R. Cogle, M.D. is a tenured professor at the University of Florida, Chief Medical Officer of Florida Medicaid, and Director of the Florida Health Policy Leadership Academy at the Bob Graham Center for Public Service.

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