Olives May Have Anti-Cancer Effects

Jun 3, 2009 by

Olives May Have Anti-Cancer Effects

Olives and olive oil are often touted as healthful foods. In the following article, two studies highlighting the possible anti cancer properties of these foods are discussed.

Anti-Cancer Properties of Olives Revealed in Two Recent Studies

by Reuben Chow

Two recent studies have suggested that compounds found in olives could be useful as anti-cancer weapons. One study had found that a compound in olive skin acts against colon cancer cells, while the other found that compounds in olive oil act against breast cancer cells.

Maslinic Acid in Olive Skin works against colon cancer cells

Maslinic acid is a triterpenoid compound found in olive skin. In the first study, a combined team comprising researchers from the University of Barcelona and the University of Granada showed that treatment using maslinic acid could slow down cell growth as well as cause apoptotic death in colon cancer cells.

What is apoptosis? Simply put, apoptosis is a form of programmed cell death, and is an important mechanism for the body to mop up unhealthy or dangerous cells. The process of apoptosis is often also described as cells “committing suicide”. Many compounds have anti-cancer effects because they are able to induce apoptosis in cancerous cells.

Already, numerous studies in recent years have shown that triterpenoid compounds can hinder the transformation of normal cells into cancerous cells by intervening in various pathways. These include carcinogen activation and DNA repair. Such compounds were also discovered to induce apoptosis in cancer cells.

Triterpenoid compounds can be found in many types of plants, while maslinic acid itself is present in certain plants with medicinal properties. In olive skin, however, the concentration of maslinic acid could be as high as 80%.

ScienceDaily.com summed up maslinic acid by stating that it is a “novel natural compound and it is able to induce apoptosis or programmed death in human HT29 colon-cancer cells via the intrinsic mitochondrial pathway”.

Polyphenols in Extra-Virgin Olive Oil works against breast cancer cells

The other study, jointly conducted by researchers from the Catalan Institute of Oncology in Girona and the University of Granada, found that certain plant chemicals found in extra-virgin olive oil can fight breast cancer. Extra-virgin olive oil is produced by cold-pressing olives without using chemicals, a process that preserves beneficial compounds which would otherwise be lost.

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