The almond is considered a tree nut that belongs to the genus Prunus. The fruit of the almond tree is known as a drupe and consists of an outer hull surrounding a hard shell which contains the edible seed. The almond is native to the Mediterranean but is widely grown in warmer parts of Europe and the United States, which is the world’s leading supplier. Almonds are versatile and may be eaten raw or roasted, whole or slivered, or even ground into a flour-like meal.
Almonds are rich in the antioxidant Vitamin E, which may prevent cellular damage, as well as dietary fiber which decreases colon cancer risk by increasing stool bulk and fecal transit. A variety of phytonutrients are found in almonds such as carotenoids, phenolic acids, flavonoids, and proanthocyanidins which possess anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, and antioxidant properties. It is well-established that chronic systemic inflammation increases cancer risk and that almonds have been shown to suppress inflammation through their phytonutrient and fatty acid profiles. Davis and colleagues noted that rats injected with a carcinogen to promote colon cancer were less likely to develop cell damage if they were fed an almond-rich diet compared to those animals fed a control diet; these authors suggested that almond consumption may reduce colon cancer risk. Observational population based studies have noted a reduced incidence with increased tree nut intake, such as almonds, and cancer in general.
In fact, an observational study of 826 patients with stage III colon cancer showed that those who consumed two ounces or more of nuts per week had a 42% lower chance of cancer recurrence and 57% lower chance of death than those who did not eat nuts.
A secondary analysis revealed the benefit of nut consumption was limited to tree nuts. Tree nuts include almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, and pecans, among others. These findings were presented at the 2017 ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago and can be read here.
In Good Health,
Mark Marinella, MD, FACP