A recent study led by researchers* at Hunter College revealed which extra virgin olive oils have the best cancer-fighting abilities. It all comes down to oleocanthal—a compound found in EVOO known to have several medicinal qualities
What is Oleocanthal?
Oleocanthal is a phenolic compound found in nature only in extra virgin olive oil. It is known to have medicinal properties. It’s been tested for its use for many conditions such as hypertension and Alzheimer’s as well as cancer.
Previous studies identified oleocanthal as a selective agent that kills cancer cells but not normal cells. Building upon this work, the research team used genetically engineered mice to model pancreatic cancer. These mice typically survive only 14 weeks; however, treating them daily with oleocanthal extended their lifespan to 18 weeks. Using mouse-to-human lifespan conversion, this could mean an increase in human life by 10.4 years.
Some olive oils are higher in Oleocanthal
Next, they looked at the ability of six different oils to kill cancer cells. The researchers classified these oils based on their oleocanthal content and compared their ability to kill cancer cells. Cancer cell death correlated strongly with the amount of oleocanthal present in the oil; the high oleocanthal olive oils (including The Governor ) were better cancer-killers than the mid-to-low oleocanthal olive oils. Corn oil, which does not contain oleocanthal, did not show cancer-killing activity.
Oleocanthal is toxic to cancer cells
But how does oleocanthal kill cancer cells? Oleocanthal damages the cell’s lysosomes, the digestive system of the cell. Oleocanthal pokes holes in the lysosomes, causing their constituents to leak into the main cell compartment and cause rapid cell death. Cancer cells are more susceptible to oleocanthal than normal cells likely due to their more abundant and fragile lysosomes. This vulnerability suggests that oleocanthal or oleocanthal-rich olive oils could be used to fight cancer without many of the side effects seen with classic chemotherapies.
*Lead author of this study, Limor Goren, PhD, is the founder and CEO of Kyoord. Dr. Goren had no financial interest in Kyoord at the time of research and publication.