Verdale olives are stored before the oil
extraction process at the 'Moulin Fanouse' in Mirabel aux Barronnies in
southern France December 8, 2006. People who use plenty of olive oil in
their diets may be helping to prevent damage to body cells that can
eventually lead to cancer, new research suggests. (Jacky
People who use plenty of olive oil in their diets may be helping to prevent
damage to body cells that can eventually lead to cancer, new research suggests.
In a study of 182 European men, researchers found evidence that olive oil can
reduce oxidative damage to cells' genetic material, a process that can initiate
They say the findings may help explain why rates of several cancers are
higher in Northern Europe than in Southern Europe, where olive oil is a dietary
They also support advice to replace saturated fats from foods like meat and
butter with vegetable fats, particularly olive oil, said study co-author Dr.
Henrik E. Poulsen, of Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark.
He and his colleagues report the findings in The FASEB Journal, a publication
of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.
The study included healthy men between the ages of 20 and 60 from five
European countries. For two weeks, the men consumed a quarter cup of olive oil
throughout each day. At the end of the study, they showed an average 13 percent
reduction in a substance called 8oxodG, which is a marker of oxidative damage to
Such damage occurs when byproducts of metabolism called reactive oxygen
species overwhelm the body's antioxidant defenses. Olive oil contains a number
of compounds, called phenols, believed to act as powerful antioxidants.
However, those compounds didn't seem to account for the drop in DNA oxidative
damage, according to Poulsen's team. The men in the study used three different
olive oils with varying levels of antioxidant phenols, and oxidative damage
declined regardless of the phenol content.
Instead, the researchers suspect that the monounsaturated fats in olive oil
are behind the effect.
The findings, they say, suggest that olive oil may be part of the reason that
certain cancers, including breast, colon, ovarian and prostate cancers, are less
common in Mediterranean countries than in Northern Europe.
At the beginning of the study, men from Northern Europe had higher levels of
8oxodG than those from Southern Europe. This is consistent, according to
Poulsen's team, with the expected effects of the olive-oil-rich "Mediterranean
However, Poulsen told Reuters Health, the diet is more than just olive oil.
Ideally, it's also rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish.
Moreover, regardless of its benefits, he added, olive oil is no substitute
for calorie control and regular exercise.