Some previous studies have suggested that a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil can help prevent cancer, while other studies have suggested otherwise. To account for this discrepancy, scientists theorized that olive oil compounds only kill certain forms of breast cancer. What their research found, in fact, was that olive-oil polyphenols known as secoiridoids and lignans are potent cancer cell fighting agents. However, these compounds are only effective against the 20 to 30 percent of breast cancers that express the so-called HER2 gene.
The researchers also discovered that when rats with induced breast cancers were fed large amounts of extra-virgin olive oil, their tumors’ malignancy rapidly shark. Lead author, Javier Menendez claims that the study findings reveal for the first time that all the major complex phenols present in extra-virgin olive oil dramatically suppress the overexpression of the cancer gene HER2 in human breast cancer cells.
Extra-virgin olive oil originates from pressing olives in a cold state – without the use of heat or chemicals. The resulting oil contains natural complex anti-cancer chemicals that the industrial refining process destroys. However, consuming large quantities of olive oil won’t prevent or cure breast cancer. The authors not that the active phytochemicals displayed tumor-killing properties against cultured breast cancer cells at concentrations that are not likely to be achieved in real life scenarios through the consumption of olive oil.
However, the researchers add that these findings, in addition with the fact that humans have been safely ingesting significant quantities of these polyphenols as long as they have been consuming olives and extra-virgin oil, strongly implies that these polyphenols might provide an excellent platform for the design of future breast-cancer fighting medications.
In addition to its cancer fighting properties, researchers at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, led by Dr. Euard Escrich, have discovered a key mechanism through which virgin olive oil protects the body against breast cancer. The UAB researchers have decoded a complete cascade of signals within breast tumor cells activated by virgin olive oil. The benefits of these signals include a decrease in the activity of the oncogene p21Ras, changes in protein signaling pathways, stimulation of tumor cell death and prevention of DNA damage.
The UAB scientists demonstrated that virgin olive oil is connected with higher incidences of benign breast tumors and concurrently with a decrease in the activity of the p21Ras oncogene, which causes uncontrolled cell proliferation and stimulates the growth of tumors.
Additionally, olive oil also suppresses the activity of some proteins, such as the AKT, essential for the survival of cells since they inhibit apoptosis, the cell’s “suicide” program. Between proliferation and apoptosis within tumor cells, these effects tip the balance in favor of cell death, thereby slowing the growth of such tumors.