October 26, 2005

Virgin Olive Oil Blocks Cancer Cells in Lab

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A mixture of compounds called phenols, extracted from virgin olive oil, inhibits the process by which colon cells become cancerous, according to lab experiments described in the International Journal of Cancer.

"Olive oil is suggested to be responsible in part for the beneficial nature of the 'Mediterranean diet' and our data support this view and provides some possible mechanisms for its action," write Dr. Chris I. R. Gill from the University of Ulster in North Ireland and colleagues.

Because the colon is one of the major cancer sites thought to be protected by olive oil, the team studied the potential anti-cancer effects of virgin olive oil phenols in cultured cell lines widely used as models for colorectal cancer.

Incubation of one cancer cell line with increasing concentrations of olive oil phenols for 24 hours protected the cells from DNA damage, the investigators found.

The effect OF olive oil phenols on another cell line after 48 hours of exposure suggested that they may "exert an anti-promoter effect in the carcinogenesis pathway."

Gill's group also observed a significant reduction in the invasiveness of colon cancer cells with the addition of olive oil phenols.

In conclusion, "We have demonstrated that phenols extracted from virgin olive oil are capable of inhibiting several stages in colon carcinogenesis in vitro," the researchers write. "The next stage would be to assess the effects in a suitable animal model."

SOURCE: International Journal of Cancer, October 20, 2005.