`High-Phenolic EVOO May Improve Prognosis of Some Leukemia Patients, Research Suggests - Olive Oil Times


High-Phenolic EVOO May Improve Prognosis of Some Leukemia Patients, Research Suggests

By Daniel Dawson
Mar. 23, 2022 09:09 UTC

Consuming high-phe­no­lic extra vir­gin olive oil may help to delay the pro­gres­sion of one of the world’s most com­mon types of can­cers, a small study of 20 patients in Greece sug­gests.

It was a very small num­ber of patients, but even in that small num­ber, there was a sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence after three months of inter­ven­tion.- Prokopios Magiatis, asso­ciate pro­fes­sor at the University of Athens

Researchers from the World Olive Center for Health, a non-profit based in Athens, found that con­sum­ing olive oil with high con­cen­tra­tions of oleo­can­thal and olea­cein improved the prog­no­sis of a sam­ple of patients with early-stage chronic lym­pho­cytic leukemia which makes up about 25 per­cent of global leukemia cases.

Leukemia is a type of blood can­cer that begins in the bone mar­row and causes the body to pro­duce too many white blood cells that do not func­tion prop­erly.

In a healthy per­son, white blood cells help the body fight bac­te­r­ial and viral infec­tions. However, in leukemia patients, the dys­func­tional white blood cells build up, dilut­ing the effec­tive­ness of func­tional ones and inter­fer­ing with the pro­duc­tion of red blood cells.

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An esti­mated 23,000 peo­ple die from leukemia each year, rep­re­sent­ing four per­cent of global can­cer deaths.

For the study, the researchers divided 20 patients from Greece at the begin­ning stages of the dis­ease into two groups. The first group con­sumed 40 mil­li­liters of mono­va­ri­etal Lianolia extra vir­gin olive oil daily for three months, which included 25 mil­ligrams of oleo­can­thal and olea­cein.

The sec­ond group con­sumed extra vir­gin olive oil high in polyphe­nols, but with low con­cen­tra­tions of oleo­can­thal and olea­cein for the same period.

After a washout period, the researchers per­formed a sec­ond trial, includ­ing eight peo­ple from each group and six new par­tic­i­pants who con­sumed 40 mil­li­liters of the extra vir­gin olive oil high in oleo­can­thal and olea­cein.

By the end of the study, the researchers observed that white blood cell pro­duc­tion had slowed down in the patients con­sum­ing high-oleo­can­thal, high-olea­cein olive oil and, in some cases, even reversed.

It not only stopped the increase [of white blood cells], but we observed a sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tion of white blood cells,” Prokopios Magiatis, an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor at the University of Athens’ depart­ment of phar­ma­cog­nosy and nat­ural prod­ucts chem­istry and co-author of the study, told Olive Oil Times.

Consuming high-oleo­can­thal, high-olea­cein extra vir­gin olive oil could become a dietary stan­dard for leukemia patients,” he added. Already there are guide­lines for patients that suf­fer from this type of leukemia. This could be one very sig­nif­i­cant addi­tion to the guide­lines.”

The inspi­ra­tion for the study came from a phone call that Magiatis received in 2015. He said an American woman with leukemia asked whether she should add extra vir­gin olive oil to her diet to help with her prog­no­sis. Magiatis told her it could not hurt.

She called us six months later cry­ing, say­ing that it’s a mir­a­cle because the white blood cell count has gone down,” Magiatis said. We thought, this is a very good start­ing point. We have to try and repeat this in a clin­i­cal trial.”

The research team decided to inves­ti­gate the role of oleo­can­thal and olea­cein because pre­vi­ous stud­ies found leukemia cells to be par­tic­u­larly sen­si­tive to both com­pounds.

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However, there was no evi­dence that these com­pounds would have the same effects on cells if con­sumed nat­u­rally and not intro­duced in lab­o­ra­tory con­di­tions.

Through dietary con­sump­tion, the phe­no­lic com­pounds of olive oil must fol­low a very com­pli­cated path­way from our mouth to our stom­ach, absorp­tion in the intes­tine, trans­porta­tion in the blood and cir­cu­la­tion all around the body,” Magiatis said.


It’s a very com­plex pro­ce­dure,” he added. The fact that we are able to observe clin­i­cal effects means that these com­pounds can suc­cess­fully fol­low all these path­ways and reach their tar­get in the blood.”

Oleocanthal and olea­cein reduce the pro­duc­tion of white blood cells in leukemic cells by pro­mot­ing apop­to­sis, an orga­nized mech­a­nism of cel­lu­lar death that can kill can­cer cells. The two com­pounds did this by decreas­ing the sur­vivin pro­tein, which inhibits apop­to­sis.

When we have a reduc­tion of the anti-apop­totic pro­teins, it means that the apop­totic mech­a­nism is acti­vated,” Magiatis said. This is how we can explain why can­cer cells are dying faster than they are mul­ti­ply­ing in the blood.”

Along with reduc­ing the num­ber of can­cer­ous white blood cells, Magiatis said patients con­sum­ing extra vir­gin olive oil had the added ben­e­fit of bet­ter blood sugar reg­u­la­tion.

We also observed ben­e­fits in the glu­cose metab­o­lism, which is very impor­tant because blood sugar is dys­reg­u­lated in all leukemia patients,” he said. Almost all the patients with chronic lym­pho­cytic leukemia suf­fer from increased glu­cose lev­els in their blood.”

We observed that their blood sugar lev­els returned to nor­mal val­ues after three and six months,” Magiatis added.

While these pre­lim­i­nary results are encour­ag­ing, Magiatis cau­tioned that fur­ther stud­ies are needed to con­firm the ini­tial find­ings and bet­ter under­stand why oleo­can­thal and olea­cein have these effects.

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It was a very small num­ber of patients, but even in that small num­ber, there was a sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence after three months of inter­ven­tion,” Magiatis said. So we con­cluded that this is very crit­i­cal. We have to con­tinue for a longer period with a larger num­ber of patients only with a high-oleo­can­thal and high-olea­cein olive oil.”

Magiatis and the other researchers are already work­ing on a new study, which will fol­low at least 100 patients for a year.

The objec­tive of the new research would be to see if con­sum­ing high-oleo­can­thal, high-olea­cein extra vir­gin olive oil would con­tinue to lower white blood cell counts over a more extended period.

Magiatis is opti­mistic that this will be the case based on anec­do­tal evi­dence. Two par­tic­i­pants in the orig­i­nal study con­tin­ued con­sum­ing the high-oleo­can­thal, high-olea­cein extra vir­gin olive oil for two years and saw their white blood cell counts con­tinue to drop.

If the more exten­sive stud­ies con­firmed these pre­vi­ous results, the researchers might inves­ti­gate the pos­si­bil­ity of iso­lat­ing the two com­pounds to cre­ate a drug for leukemia patients. However, Magiatis cau­tioned that these stud­ies would take years to com­plete.

In the mean­time, he sees these pre­lim­i­nary results as solid evi­dence that the con­sump­tion of extra vir­gin olive oil high in oleo­can­thal and olea­cein is a low-risk inter­ven­tion for chronic lym­pho­cytic leukemia patients.

In any case, the addi­tion of olive oil in the diet of any patient is some­thing that does not cre­ate any risk to their health,” he con­cluded. The only things that they can get is a ben­e­fit. There is no risk ever observed by the con­sump­tion of olive oil in the every­day diet of any per­son.”


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