Research Roundup 3 - Olive Oil and Cancer

Anti-aging, Cancer Prevention, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Nancy Scanlan, DVM, MS

The rate of aging is controlled by nutrient-sensing pathways, in studies of animals from worms to humans. The same pathways are commonly involved in carcinogenesis and cancer metabolism. Agents such as extra-virgin olive oil, metformin, resveratrol, and Rhodiola that target these pathways often have both anti-aging and anti-cancer actions. They reprogram the energy metabolism of cancer, and suppress conversion of mature cells into senescent (dying) cells.(1)

Aging occurs through 2 main mechanisms: accumulatiing DNA damage from free radicals, and stimulation of mTOR/S6 signaling. A number of items that could suppress these effects include metformin, rapamycin, berberine, resveratrol, vitD3, aspirin, and extra virgin olive oil. All decrease DNA damage and free radicals in cells. (2, 3)

Extra virgin olive oil extracts have anticancer activity related to anti-aging  activity. Specific nutrients called
secoiridoids from olive oil suppress genes involved in the Warburg effect (where cancer cells use massive amounts of glucose, but do not process it with oxygen), and in the ability to live forever, seen in immortal cancer stem cells. They also prevent age-related changes in cells. (3)

HER2 signaling in human breast cancer cells is known to influence the development of breast cancer . Extra virgin olive oil blocks this signaling. (4) Fibrosis leading to organ failure and a related cancer pathway leading to metastasis were shut down by extra virgin olive oil, in a different study. (5) High concentrations of a class of substances known as polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, (6) both of which are known to slow aging and help fight cancer. An initial study in 2013 showed how olive oil processing could be modified to minimize loss of polyphenols, and some possibilities for to use byproducts of olive oil production to use these to add to other foods. (7)

So if you haven’t been using this healthy oil for you and your pet, you now have some good reasons to do so! Just remember that you want the “extra virgin” type.

1. Yokoyama NN, et al., When Anti-Aging Studies Meet Cancer Chemoprevention: Can Anti-Aging Agent Kill Two Birds with One Blow? Curr Pharmacol Rep. 2015 Dec 1;1(6):420-433. Epub 2015 Apr 14.

2. Halicka HD et al., Potential anti-aging agents suppress the level of constitutive mTOR- and DNA damage- signaling. Aging (Albany NY). 2012 Dec;4(12):952-65.

3. Menendez JA et al., Xenohormetic and anti-aging activity of secoiridoid polyphenols present in extra virgin olive oil: a new family of gerosuppressant agents. Cell Cycle. 2013 Feb 15;12(4):555-78. doi: 10.4161/cc.23756. Epub 2013 Jan 31.

4. Menendez JA et al., Extra-virgin olive oil polyphenols inhibit HER2 (erbB-2)-induced malignant transformation in human breast epithelial cells: relationship between the chemical structures of extra-virgin olive oil secoiridoids and lignans and their inhibitory activities on the tyrosine kinase activity of HER2. Int J Oncol. 2009 Jan;34(1):43-51.

5. Vazquez-Martin A et al., Phenolic secoiridoids in extra virgin olive oil impede fibrogenic and oncogenic epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition: extra virgin olive oil as a source of novel antiaging phytochemicals.
Rejuvenation Res. 2012 Feb;15(1):3-21. doi: 10.1089/rej.2011.1203. Epub 2012 Jan 9.

6. Virruso C et al., Nutraceutical properties of extra-virgin olive oil: a natural remedy for age-related disease?
Rejuvenation Res. 2014 Apr;17(2):217-20. doi: 10.1089/rej.2013.1532.

7. Frankel E et al., Literature review on production process to obtain extra virgin olive oil enriched in bioactive compounds. Potential use of byproducts as alternative sources of polyphenols. J Agric Food Chem. 2013 Jun 5;61(22):5179-88. doi: 10.1021/jf400806z. Epub 2013 May 20.