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Compound Found in Olive Oil May Destroy Cancer Cells, Leave Healthy Cells Alone

Previous studies have linked olive oil consumption to a lower risk of cancer. A recent study suggests that a phenolic compound called oleocanthal, which is found in olive oil, may be able to selectively kill cancerous cells while leaving healthy cells alone.

For this study, the researchers tested the effect of oleocanthal on healthy and cancerous cells. They found that the cancerous cells were destroyed within 30 minutes of being exposed to the oleocanthal, while the healthy cells remained intact.

Lysosomes are organelles in the cells that digest food or break down the cell when it dies.  The lysosomes of the cancers cells were destroyed in a process called lysosomal membrane permeabilization, which occurs when the lysosomal content leaks out and results in lysosomal cell death.

The researchers believe that the cancer cells are more metabolically active, eat more, and grow faster than healthy cells, which leads to larger and more fragile lysosomes. When the oleocanthal ruptures the lysosome, the acid and recycling enzymes attack the cells and cause them to go into programmed cell death.

Researchers from Rutgers University conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on January 23, 2015, in Molecular & Cellular Oncology.

Olive oil has been used in folk remedies for years and recent research suggests that it may help reduce the risk of colon cancer and lower cholesterol. If you want to add more olive oil to your diet, it can be as simple as eating a spoonful daily. If eating olive oil by the spoonful doesn’t appeal to you, consider substituting olive oil for butter in your daily diet by using it for cooking, putting it on bread, or using it as a salad dressing.

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