It's fairly common knowledge by now that olive oil is good for you. It contains healthy fats and antioxidants that can help to reduce the incidence of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. However, not all olive oils are alike. Extra-virgin olive oil is not only superior in quality, color and flavor but, because it is unrefined, it also contains a higher concentration of a cancer-fighting compound called oleocanthal.
Numerous studies have shown that this phenolic compound offers anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial and neuroprotective effects. It has also been shown to reduce the risk of breast and liver cancers, although the mechanism behind this activity has not been clearly understood. New research shows that oleocanthal has the ability to permeate the lysosomal membrane of cancer cells where metabolism occurs, causing the cell to self-destruct.
Don't expect to be given a prescription for olive oil any time soon, especially if you're ever diagnosed with cancer. But the takeaway from this study is that olive oil should be incorporated into the diet as a functional food that has multiple benefits. (Don't overdo it or it may have negative effects.) Be sure to consume a good quality extra-virgin olive oil with a rich, greenish-golden color. The presence of an abundance of oleocanthal is predicted when the oil has a slightly peppery taste.
Goren L, Zhang G, Kaushik S, Breslin PAS, Du Y-CN, Foster DA (2019) (-)-Oleocanthal and (-)-oleocanthal-rich olive oils induce lysosomal membrane permeabilization in cancer cells. PLoS ONE 14(8): e0216024. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0216024