Olive trees and its fruits and leaves have been used practically as well as ceremonially for thousands of years. In the Bible, the olive leaf is a symbol of peace; in addition, the first tree to be planted by Noah after the flood was said to be an olive tree. It is no wonder that the humble olive has such a deep significance. Medicinally speaking, it is a powerhouse for health. Olive tree fruits and leaves, and the oils that are made out of them, are anti-bacterial, can reduce inflammation and contain a plethora of vitamins and nutrients.
New Discovery from Rutgers
Since time immemorial, people especially in the Middle East have used olive for fighting everything from yeast infections and common colds to lowering cholesterol. And now according to new research, certain substances found in extra virgin olive oil could contain cancer-killing effects as well. The research team for this latest study included cancer biologists from Hunter College in New York City as well as Dr. Paul Breslin, professor of nutritional sciences at the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. A report on their findings was recently published earlier this year in the journal Molecular and Cellular Oncology.
The researchers discovered that an ingredient found in the oil─ oleocanthal─ can kill cancer cells. Oleocanthal is a compound that ruptures part of the cancer cell wall.
When it does this, enzymes are released that lead to cancer cell death. What was even more amazing was that although oleocanthal meant near-sudden death to cancer cells, it merely put healthy cells “to sleep” for a little while.
Dr. Breslin speculates that oleocanthal may work as a cancer killer by targeting key proteins in cancer cells that trigger
apoptosis or cancer cell death. Normally “programmed cell death” can take up to 24 hours to complete so at first researchers were baffled as to how oleocanthal could activate apoptosis so quickly. Then team member Onica LeGendre of Hunter College, who is a chemist, discovered that oleocanthal punctures lysosomes in cancer cells where cell waste is stored (these “recycling centers” are larger in cancer cells than in normal cells). The invasion causes cancer cells to be killed quickly by their own enzymes.
“Once you open one of those things,” explains Dr. Breslin. “All hell breaks loose.”
Although oleocanthal doesn’t permanently harm healthy cells, it does stop their life cycles temporarily. After about a day, according to the findings, healthy cells return to their normal cycles. The researchers’ next study will hopefully show how oleocanthal can shrink tumors in live animals. They also do not yet know why cancer cells in particular are so sensitive to oleocanthal.
Olives and olive oil should be a staple in any healthy kitchen, not only because of their potential cancer-killing properties but for a myriad of other reasons as well. Omega 3’s in olive oil can lower bad cholesterol and your risk of heart attacks and strokes. Olive oil is also a good source of monounsaturated fat, which studies have shown could reduce a woman’s risk of Breast Cancer. Not any olive oil will do, however. When choosing an olive oil to add to your pantry, make sure it is organic, cold pressed and extra virgin olive oil─ the greener the better for extra freshness and purity. Moderate amounts of monounsaturated fats are an important part of the “7 Essentials System ™” for healing the body naturally and healthy, organic extra virgin olive oil should be a part of every healthy breast diet protocol.
Try This: Easy Olive Tapenade
If you want to reap the benefits of extra-virgin olive oil, you don’t have to just put it on top of a salad. Try this tapenade that also contains healthy garlic and fresh basil leaves:
In a food processor add the following ingredients:
1 ½ cups pitted and mixed olives (Kalamata and green)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbs. fresh chives
2 tbsp. Fresh torn basil leaves
1 tbs. capers
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Pulse until finely chopped. Serve with gluten free or raw crackers. This also makes a delicious addition to any fish or vegetable. Bon Appétit! For more recipes like this one, check out my Delectable Dishes.