Component in EVOO Kills Cancer Cells

Oleocanthal in EVOO causes a rupture of cancerous cells, releasing enzymes and causing cell death, without harming healthy cells.
Feb. 18, 2015 10:46 UTC
Isabel Putinja

A new study has proven that an ingre­di­ent in extra vir­gin olive oil can kill can­cer cells.

The results of the study, which will be pub­lished in the jour­nal Molecular and Cellular Oncology, were made pub­lic on January 23, 2015.

The researchers, nutri­tional sci­en­tist Paul Breslin (Rutgers University), biol­o­gist David Foster (Hunter College) and chemist Onica LeGendre (Hunter College) dis­cov­ered in a lab study that the ingre­di­ent, called oleo­can­thal, causes a rup­ture of a part of the can­cer­ous cell which releases enzymes and causes cell death, with­out harm­ing healthy cells. In this way, can­cer cells are killed by their own enzymes.

Oleocanthal is a name for a chem­i­cal in extra vir­gin olive oil (EVOO) that means Stinging Oil Aldehyde’,” Paul Breslin told Olive Oil Times. It is made by the olive when it is crushed to make the pulp from which the oil is pressed.”

There are many com­pounds in EVOO that have a 6‑carbon ring struc­ture on them and col­lec­tively they are known as phe­no­lics,” Breslin added. These com­pounds are col­lec­tively good anti-oxi­dants pre­vent­ing oxy­gen pore-rad­i­cals from form­ing and they also tend to be anti-inflam­ma­tory. Oleocanthal has been shown to inter­fere with processes asso­ci­ated with many types of inflam­ma­tion, Alzheimer’s dis­ease, and can­cer for­ma­tion and growth.”

The researchers dis­cov­ered that oleo­can­thal caused can­cer cells to break down and die very quickly; within 30 min­utes, instead of the 16 to 24 hours it takes for pro­grammed cell death, known as apop­to­sis.

Though the sci­en­tists already sus­pected that oleo­can­thal can kill can­cer cells, this is the first time a study exam­ined how this occurs.

There are many stud­ies that show that oleo­can­thal can inter­fere with can­cer processes and growth path­ways. It has also been shown in live ani­mals that oleo­can­thal can shrink tumors in mice,” explained Breslin. What is not known is whether these are all sep­a­rate effects of oleo­can­thal on can­cer or whether there is per­haps an upstream event that trig­gers them. We have what may be an upstream event that is a novel phe­nom­e­non to be described in that we are open­ing up the lyso­some with oleo­can­thal inside the cell and releas­ing toxic enzymes that kill the cell. This phe­nom­e­non is called Lysosomal Membrane Permeabilization or LMP.”

We wish to look at whether this is why tumors are shrink­ing in mice in the pres­ence of oleo­can­thal. In our study, David Foster and Onica LeGendre focused on breast, pan­cre­atic, and prostate tumor cells and showed they could be killed by LMP but we did not kill three kinds of healthy non-can­cer­ous cells,” Breslin said.

Researchers would like to take the study out­side the lab and inves­ti­gate the effec­tive­ness of oleo­can­thal to kill can­cer cells and tumors in liv­ing ani­mals.

This study con­firms the anti-oxi­dant and anti-inflam­ma­tory qual­i­ties of extra vir­gin olive oil and the ben­e­fits of diets rich in olive oil like the Mediterranean diet to good health.


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