It is increasingly known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, but what is oleocanthal? It is a natural organic compound of extra virgin olive oil. It is part of the family of polyphenols, substances with antioxidant characteristics present in some foods of vegetable origin.

Oleocanthal has an anti-inflammatory action on the body that some compare to ibuprofen, one of the most widely ingested nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

But the real health benefit of this compound is that it can act against the cancer cells without affecting the healthy cells that are surround them. An important find based on scientific studies.

The most revealing study of the benefits of EVOO against cancer is that of Breslin, Foster and Le Gendre, in February 2015. Paul Breslin, Beauchamp’s collaborator at the Monell Center and co-author of the discovery of the Oleocanthal, is a professor at the University of Rutgers in New York. David Foster and Onica LeGendre are two biologists who research cancer at Hunter College.

This study on the benefits of Oleocanthal on cancer, published in Molecular and Cellular Oncology, shows that this compound kills cancer cells by breaking down the vesicles that store cell debris, lysosomes. That is, oleocanthal would kill cancer cells without affecting the healthy cells that are around them, as with traditional treatments such as chemotherapy.

Hence, more and more doctors insist on the importance of maintaining healthy eating habits like those found in the Mediterranean diet, with its frequent use of extra virgin olive oil, which also acts as a natural antioxidant and contributes the vegetable fats necessary to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.

Although much remains to be learnt about the effect of oleocanthal against cancer, it is possible that over the coming years we could see a progressive application in the treatments of this disease. Much work is still required in clinical studies of this compound, but it is beyond doubt the importance that the Mediterranean diet, in which olive oil is a fundamental ingredient, can have in the prevention of this disease.

Other studies on the oleocanthal that are related to the prevention of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disorders or rheumatism are also noted.

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