Brain and other nervous system cancers are the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, killing over 16,000 people each year. The five-year survival rate for this type of cancer is only 34 percent for men and 36 percent for women. Depending on the size, type and grade of the tumor, as well as other factors, like where the tumor is located, conventional treatment usually involves surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. The success rate for these treatments is low, however, and the side effects of both the tumors themselves and their treatment can be devastating. A new study by researchers from the University of Edinburgh, published in the Journal of Molecular Biology, provides new hope in the fight against brain cancer.
The research team determined that an important nutrient in olive oil, called oleic acid, might help prevent brain cancer by stopping a certain cancer-causing protein from interfering with miR-7 production; miR-7 is a cell molecule that suppresses brain tumor formation.
“While we cannot yet say that olive oil in the diet helps prevent brain cancer, our findings do suggest that oleic acid can support the production of tumour-suppressing molecules in cells grown in the lab,” said Dr. Gracjan Michlewski of the University of Edinburgh. “Further studies could help determine the role that olive oil might have in brain health.” [RELATED: Find out how olive oil boosts bone health.]
This study comes in the wake of other studies which have proven olive oil’s cancer-fighting properties. The Mediterranean diet, in which olive oil features strongly, is generally associated with reduced cancer risk, and it would seem that this healing oil plays a large part in this.
In 2015, researchers from Rutgers University and Hunter College published a study in the journal Molecular & Cellular Oncology, which revealed that a compound in olive oil called oleocanthal could kill cancer cells in less than an hour, without harming any healthy cells in the process.
Rather than inducing apoptosis, or the self-destruction of cancer cells, oleocanthal actually breaks the lysosomes of cancer cells apart. This causes critical life-sustaining functions of the cancer cell to break down. At the same time, healthy cells just go into a sort of hibernation mode for a day and then return to their normal functionality.
There are many more reasons to add olive oil to your diet than just for cancer treatment or prevention, however. Olive oil has been proven to strengthen the immune system, prevent osteoporosis, fight dementia, improve bone health and much more.
A 2010 study by the University of Barcelona, Spain, found that olive oil, and the Mediterranean diet as a whole, can improve brain health and delay cognitive decline in older people.
“Oxidative stress and vascular impairment are believed to partly mediate age-related cognitive decline, a strong risk factor for development of dementia,” the authors wrote. “Epidemiologic studies suggest that a Mediterranean diet, an antioxidant-rich cardioprotective dietary pattern, delays cognitive decline.”
The fatty acids and antioxidants in olive oil have also been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease.
A word of warning though: Not all olive oils are equally beneficial. Some are extracted using chemicals, subjected to high heat, or diluted with cheaper, toxic oils like canola and soybean oil. To reap the most possible health benefits, be sure to buy extra virgin olive oil that has been extracted using natural methods. If you can try to have some on your salad every day your body will thank you and you will be rewarded with longevity and good health!