Olives May Have Anti-Cancer Effects

Jun 3, 2009 by

Olives May Have Anti-Cancer Effects

The study team split olive oil in “fractions”, each containing different plant compounds, and then tested the effects of these “fractions” against breast cancer cells in the lab. And they found that all the fractions inhibited the gene HER2, which promotes breast cancer; compounds in olive oil called “polyphenols” caused cells which had overactive HER2 to undergo apoptosis.

The effects of the olive compounds on breast cancer cells are somewhat similar to that of Herceptin, a well-known cancer drug, which also works on the HER2 gene. Herceptin, however, is said to be only selectively effective on some patients.


There are a couple of key points to note on the findings of these studies. Firstly, while the said compounds were found to have anti-cancer effects on malignant cells, the observed effects were obtained in-vitro, and may not be easily replicated in the human body. As the researchers from the second study wrote: “The active phytochemicals [...] exhibited tumoricidal effects against cultured breast cancer cells at concentrations that are unlikely to be achieved in real life by consuming olive oil.”

In both of the studies, the researchers have suggested that their findings could lead to the development of chemotherapeutic agents in the treatment of cancer (Read: chemical cancer drugs). While that may not interest many of us, what we can take away is the fact that olives can form a part of a cancer-fighting and health-promoting diet. In fact, their beneficial properties could help explain why Mediterranean diets, which are rich in olives and olive oil, have been linked to lower cancer risk.


Bottom line? In a bid to prevent or beat cancer, it is not very wise to go loading up on insane amounts of olives or olive oil, because that is unlikely to work. Instead, olives, together with other foods which contain natural cancer-fighting compounds, can form a key component of our daily diet. They are cheap; they are effective; and they are food, which we need to eat anyway, and are unlikely to harm us. As Hippocrates once said, let food be our medicine.

Of course, there are other aspects of a cancer-fighting lifestyle, including sufficient amounts of pure water, fresh air, rest, exercise, and avoidance of harmful substances like cigarette smoke and alcohol.

As for using compounds found in olives to develop new cancer drugs, well, the world has been waiting for breakthrough cancer drugs for decades – how long do you want to carry on waiting?


Olive Skins Provide Natural Defense Against Colon Cancer, Study Suggests (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090108101621.htm)

Now olive oil can combat breast cancer (http://www.metro.co.uk/news/article.html?Now_olive_oil_can_combat_breast_cancer&in_article_id=453014&in_page_id=34)

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