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Another study supports the health benefits of high quality extra-virgin olive oil. Olive oil contains healthy ‘phytochemicals’, that can trigger cancer cell death. New research strengthens the connection between olive oil-rich Mediterranean diets and reductions in breast cancer risk.

Javier Menendez from the Catalan Institute of Oncology and Antonio Segura-Carretero from the University of Granada in Spain studied which parts of olive oil were most active against cancer.

Menendez said, “Our findings reveal for the first time that all the major complex phenols present in extra-virgin olive oil drastically suppress over-expression of the cancer gene HER2 in human breast cancer cells”.

The HER2 gene is over-expressed in 20 percent of breast cancers and increases the number of cancer stem cells, the cells that fuel a tumor’s growth and spread, according to a new study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. The gene, HER2, causes cancer stem cells to multiply and spread, explaining why HER2 has been linked to a more aggressive type of breast cancer and to metastatic disease, in which the cancer has spread beyond the breast, the researchers say.

Extra-virgin olive oil is produced without the use of heat or chemical treatments. It contains phytochemicals that are lost in the ordinary refining process. The study separated the oil into fractions and tested the fractions against breast cancer cells in the lab. Each of the fractions containing the major extra-virgin phytochemical polyphenols (lignans and secoiridoids) was effective in inhibiting HER2. Their report (in press) is entitled: Javier A Menendez, Alejandro Vazquez-Martin, Rocio Garcia-Villalba, Alegria Carrasco-Pancorbo, Cristina Oliveras-Ferraros, Alberto Fernandez-Gutierrez and Antonio Segura-Carretero. Anti-over expression of HER2 (erbB-2) oncogene effects of phenolic compounds directly isolated from commercial Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). BMC Cancer.

The findings provide new facts about the mechanisms by which polyphenol-rich extra-virgin olive oil, may lower breast cancer risk in an HER2-dependent manner. Caution is, however, warranted when applying the lab results to the human situation.

The researchers warn that, “The active phytochemicals (i.e. lignans and secoiridoids) exhibited tumoricidal effects against cultured breast cancer cells at concentrations that are unlikely to be achieved in real life by consuming olive oil”.

Nevertheless, and according to the authors,

“These findings, together with the fact that that humans have safely been ingesting significant amounts of lignans and secoiridoids as long as they have been consuming olives and extra-virgin oil, strongly suggest that these polyphenols might provide an excellent and safe platform for the design of new anti breast-cancer drugs”.

Women with HER2 breast cancer should look to Herceptin which has been effective. Perhaps olive oil can provide a diet safety advantage to all women and reduce the incidence of this disease.

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