How olive oil protects against breast cancer

July 13, 2010

One of the main reasons for the benefits ascribed to the Mediterranean diet is the key ingredient of olive oil.  As well is helping protect against heart disease, and add flavour to food, it now seems that it also plays a key role in protecting against breast cancer.

It is no surprise in that the majority of research into the benefits of olive oil have come from those countries that produce it, and this is no exception.  Researchers at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain have spent over twenty years working to determine the effects fats have on breast cancer, and in particular the effects of virgin olive oil.   Now they have discovered a key mechanism by which virgin olive oil, in contrast to other vegetable oils, protects the body.  They have managed to decode a complete cascade of signals within breast tumour cells activated by virgin olive oil, and came to the conclusion that the benefits includes a decrease in the activity of the oncogene p21Ras – which spurs uncontrolled cell proliferation and stimulates the growth of tumours.  Other benefits include changes in protein signalling pathways, stimulation of tumour cell death and prevention of DNA damage

Any research into this area is important, as breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in Western countries.   The link between a diet rich in fats and the incidence of cancer has already been established, but some types of fats can play a protective role against the development of these tumours.

In addition, olive oil suppresses the activity of some proteins, such as the AKT, essential for the survival of cells since they prevent apoptosis, the cell’s “suicide” programme. Between proliferation and apoptosis in tumour cells, these effects tip the balance towards cell death, thereby slowing the growth of tumours.

If you want to increase your protection against breast cancer, then your diet needs to include virgin olive oil – used cold, not in cooking – as this is associated with low incidences of specific types of cancer, including breast cancer.  It also has a protective role against coronary diseases and other health problems.


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