New research has shown that a compound found in olive skins can defend against colon cancer. Researchers from the University of Granada and the University of Barcelona have shown that treatment with maslinic acid, a compound isolated from olive-skin pomace, results in a significant inhibition of colon cancer cell from dividing and causes them to die.
Reyes-zurita et al. Maslinic acid, a natural triterpene from Olea europaea L., induces apoptosis in HT29 human colon-cancer cells via the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway. Cancer Letters, 2009; 273 (1): 44-54.
"We have investigated the mechanisms of maslinic acid with regard to its inhibitory effects on the growth of HT29 colon-cancer cells. High concentrations of maslinic acid are present in the protective wax-like coating of olives. Our results show that treatment with maslinic acid results in a significant inhibition of cell proliferation in a dose-dependent manner and causes apoptotic death in colon-cancer cells. We found that it inhibits considerably the expression of Bcl-2 whilst increasing that of Bax; it also stimulates the release of mitochondrial cytochrome-c and activates caspase-9 and caspase-3. All these results point clearly to the activation of the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway in response to the treatment of HT29 colon-cancer cells with maslinic acid. Our results suggest that maslinic acid has the potential to provide significant natural defence against colon-cancer."
This study suggests that chemopreventive agents of a natural origin, often a part of our daily diet, may provide a cheap, effective way of controlling such diseases as cancer of the colon. A wide range of studies in recent years has shown that triterpenoids, like maslinic acid hinder carcinogenesis by intervening in pathways such as carcinogen activation, DNA repair, cell cycle arrest, cell differentiation and the induction of apoptosis in cancer cells.
Triterpenoids are compounds present in a wide range of plants used in traditional medicine and known to have anti-tumoral properties. Low concentrations of maslinic acid are found in plants with medicinal properties, but its concentration in the waxy skin of olives may be as high as 80%.
We recently highlighted a study that showed that certain plant chemicals found in extra-virgin olive oil can fight breast cancer, by selectively targeting certain cancer cells.
While it is not advisable to load up on olives in a bid to beat cancer, what we can take away from this is that olives can form a part of a cancer-fighting and health-promoting diet.
Together with other aspects of a cancer-fighting lifestyle, including sufficient amounts of pure water, fresh air, rest, exercise, and avoidance of harmful chemicals, eating foods which contain natural cancer-fighting compounds, like olives should form - alongside the consumption of nutritious whole foods - a key component of our diet.