Oleic Acid Key to Olive Oil's Anti-Cancer Effect
From: Roman Bystrianyk (rbystrianyk_at_gmail.com)
Date: 9 Jan 2005 19:36:27 -0800
Patricia Reaney, "Oleic Acid Key to Olive Oil's Anti-Cancer Effect",
Reuters, January 9, 2005,
Scientists have discovered why eating a Mediterranean diet rich in
fruits, vegetables and particularly olive oil can help to protect women
from developing breast cancer.
The key is oleic acid, the main component of olive oil.
Dr Javier Menendez, of Northwestern University Feinberg School of
Medicine in Chicago, said oleic acid blocks the action of a
cancer-causing oncogene called HER-2/neu which is found in about 30
percent of breast cancer patients.
"We have something now that is able to explain why the Mediterranean
diet is so healthy," Menendez told Reuters.
Doctors and researchers had been aware that eating a Mediterranean diet
reduced the risk of breast cancer and other illnesses such as heart
disease. But until now they did not know how.
Menendez and his colleagues in the United States and Spain studied the
impact of oleic acid in laboratory studies of breast cancer cells.
"We are able to demonstrate that the main component of olive oil, oleic
acid, is able to down-regulate the most important oncogene in breast
cancer," Menendez explained.
"The most important source of oleic acid is olive oil."
They found that oleic acid not only suppressed the action of the
oncogene, it also improved the effectiveness of the breast cancer drug
Herceptin, a targeted therapy made by Swiss drug maker Roche Holding AG
that works against the HER-2/neu gene.
Breast cancer patients with HER-2/neu positive tumors suffer from an
aggressive form of the disease and have a poor prognosis.
"There is no evidence at all that olive oil is toxic," said Menendez,
who reported his findings in the journal Annals of Oncology, explained.
"It is totally safe to consume olive oil," he added.
More than one million cases of breast cancer are diagnosed worldwide
each year. In 1998, the disease caused 1.6 percent of all female
deaths, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer in
Although oleic acid works against the oncogene in a different manner
than Herceptin and enhanced the drug's effectiveness.
But Menendez stressed that although the laboratory results are
promising, more research is needed. They are hoping to uncover the
mechanism by which the acid targets the oncogene and are planning
studies of animals with breast cancer to see if a diet high in olive
oil can alter the activity of the oncogene and the impact of Herceptin.
"We have a molecular link than can explain why the Mediterranean diet
is demonstrating all these benefits," Menendez added.