Sure, nuts add a tasty crunch to your diet, but do they have the potential to save your life? That’s what a new study is proposing after revealing that arecoline — the stimulant component of areca nuts — has anticancer properties. However, some experts are hesitant to read too much into the findings because the stimulant has also been linked to cancer.

Arecoline has been compared to nicotine for both its stimulant effect and addictive qualities, and even shares similar properties with arsenic. However, new findings now published online in the journal Molecular Cell suggests the component may not be all bad, and has some anticancer properties. The team of researchers found that arecoline can help limit something known as the Warburg effect, a term used to describe a technique cancer cells use to grow more quickly. In a lab setting, arecoline inhibited the growth of human lung cancer and leukemia cells both in culture and grafted into mice. What’s more, it did this while not affecting the growth of normal blood cells.

"It sounded like a carcinogen to me. But it all depends on the dose and how it is taken into the body," said senior author Jing Chen in a recent statement.

It’s too early for doctors to suggest using arecoline to combat cancer, and its toxic qualities mean that if not used correctly, it could cause as many cancers as it prevents. Still, this is a starting point for more research.

"This is just a proof of principle, showing that ACAT1 is a good anticancer target," explained Chen. "We view arecoline as a lead to other compounds that could be more potent and selective."

As for its toxic properties, the study showed that there was no obvious toxicity when treating the mice, but emphasized that more research must be done to uncover the true extent of Arecoline's possible dangers. In addition, although arsenic is also a very toxic chemical to humans and has been linked to many cancers, a form of it is also used in the treatment for acute promyelocytic leukemia.

-Areca nuts, harvested in Asia, are used by up to 10 percent of the world’s population, the BBC report.

-The nuts are also known as “Taiwan’s chewing gum” due to their popularity in this part of the world.

-The nut’s buzz is compared to that of six cups of coffee.

-The nut is so powerful that it is ranked alongside nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine as the most popular mind-altering substances in the world.

-Many countries in Asia, such as India and Thailand, have launched special programs to discourage the nut’s use.

Source: Fan J, Lin R, Xia S, et al. Tetrameric Acetyl-CoA Acetyltransferase 1 Is Important for Tumor Growth. Molecular Cell. 2016

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