Is Olive Oil the Cure for the Common Cancer?
My readers are well aware that I’ma big proponent of extra virgin olive oil in the diet. It’s an important part of the life-extending Mediterranean diet, and scientific research continues to mount indicating that it’s a key reason the Mediterranean diet is linked to lower risks of everything from cardiovascular disease, to stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and even cancer.
The latter is particularly heartening, because we all know someone who has been affected in some way by this dreaded disease. Of course, part of the horror of cancer is that it’s not a single disease. Rather, it’s a huge collection of diverse diseases, each with different risks, treatments, and prognoses. Some cancers are almost easy to cure. Others are virtually impossible. All are anxiety-producing and arguably terrifying.
So it’s exciting to report that research emerged recently which hints at one of the ways in which a key component of extra virgin olive oil may work to prevent—or even kill—cancer. The component is a compound called oleocanthal. Scientists have known for some time that it’s capable of rapidly killing cancer cells. But they didn’t know how. Until now.
Evidently, oleocanthal from olive oil uses ordinary cellular structures in cancer cells, called lysozymes, against the cells, triggering a process called apoptosis. Apoptosis has been likened to programmed cellular suicide. The compound degrades cancer cells’ lysozyme membranes, but leaves normal cells intact. This suggests that cancerous cells have unusually thin lysozyme membranes, compared to normal cells.
Study co-author, Paul Breslin, said: “The mechanism of killing cancer cells and sparing healthy cells, lysosomal membrane permeabilization, has been hypothesized as a possible mechanism of effectively killing cancer cells and sparing healthy tissues, but has never been realized before. Our realization…makes this…of particular therapeutic interest for cancer treatment.”
Never mind the technicalities. The good news is, a chemical ordinarily found in extra virgin olive oil kills cancer cells and leaves healthy cells alone. If that’s not encouraging news about the power of food to prevent disease, I don’t know what is!
D A Fostera et al. (-)-Oleocanthal rapidly and selectively induces cancer cell death via lysosomal membrane permeabilization (LMP). Molecular & Cellular Oncology, March 2015 DOI: 10.1080/23723556.2015.1006077