Health experts have told us for years that the Mediterranean diet, and olive oil in particular, could help us live longer by reducing the risk of cancer and other diseases. Now a team from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago appears to have identified precisely how olive oil helps fight one of the deadliest scourges: breast cancer.
The researchers tested the effect of oleic acid a monounsaturated fatty acid found principally in olive oil on breast cancer cells. Their findings, published online by the Annals of Oncology, show that oleic acid cuts levels of a cancer-causing gene called her-2neu by 46%. her-2neu affects up to 30% of women with breast cancer. The team found that oleic acid also enhanced the effectiveness of breast-cancer drug Herceptin.
Breast cancer is the second-deadliest cancer among women; more than 400,000 died from the disease in 2002, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Ruth Lupu, lead author of the report, said the results "lead us to an exciting path of inquiry about diet and breast-cancer treatment and prevention." Of course, lab results don't always translate into clinical practice. But for women trying to ward off breast cancer, olive oil has never tasted so good.