As the use of olive oil in the United States grows, so does the understanding that the food could be an important cancer-fighting agent.
The use of olive oil has been most prevalent throughout the Mediterranean world. The diets of people in this region of the globe have long been associated with lower obesity rates as well as lower incidents of diseases like Alzheimer's and some cancers.
Some researchers believe the cancer benefit of using olive oil is connected to its ability to help people stay thin. Other researchers have examined the connection between olive oil and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
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Researchers at the German Cancer Research Center found as far back as 2004 that “both olives and olive oil” had a number of different cancer-fighting agents including squalene and terpenoids. Other antioxidants included acteosides, hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol and phenyl propionic acids.
Newer research is focusing on a phenolic compound in olive oil called oleocanthal, which may be able to rupture cancer cells while protecting healthy ones. A new study in the journal Molecular and Cellular Oncology
found that oleocanthal causes cancer cells to be killed by their own enzymes while not harming healthy cells.
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The International Olive Council points to research studies that show olive oil can reduce breast and bowel cancers. Theories of why olive oil helps are related to the oleic acid contents as well as many known antioxidants in olive oil. These antioxidants include flavanoids, polyphenols, and squalene.
A 2013 study in the Journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research
focused on molecular mechanisms that make olive oil chemopreventive and therapeutic for fighting cancer, including breast cancer.
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