Could olive oil be the latest weapon against cancer?

Could olive oil be the latest weapon against cancer?
Highlights

Could olive oil be the latest weapon against cancer? Following a Mediterranean diet has long been regarded as the key to a long and healthy life. And now scientists may have found one of the key reasons why.

  • An ingredient in extra virgin olive oil- oleocanthal- kills cancerous cells
  • Ruptures the cell's lysosome - it's waste dump - which kills it quickly
  • It doesn't harm healthy cells - just temporarily 'puts them to sleep'
  • Next researchers will see if oleocanthal shrinks tumours in living animals

Following a Mediterranean diet has long been regarded as the key to a long and healthy life. And now scientists may have found one of the key reasons why. An ingredient in extra virgin olive oil, oleocanthal, kills human cancer cells without harming healthy ones, researchers found. The oleocanthal works by rupturing a part of the cancer cell called the lysosome, which acts as the cell’s waste dump, releasing proteins that cause it to die.

When the scientists applied it to cancer cells in the lab, the cells died very quickly – within 30 minutes to an hour. ‘The lysosome is the garbage dump, or the recycling centre, of the cell,’ said researcher Paul Breslin, from Rutgers University in the U.S. ‘Once you open one of those things, all hell breaks loose. ‘The lysosome is isolated in the cell because it’s so toxic. If you rupture the membrane that’s compartmentalising the lysosome, the inside of it leaks out into the cell.

‘It’s full of aggressive enzymes that can tear apart anything that it comes into contact with.’

However, oleocanthal does not harm healthy cells – it merely suspends their life cycles temporarily, the researchers said.

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