A compound found in olive oil may help to prevent cancer developing in the brain. Research into oleic acid — the primary ingredient in olive oil — has shown how it can help prevent cancer-causing genes from functioning in cells.
The oily substance — one of a group of nutrients known as fatty acids — stimulates the production of a cell molecule whose function is to prevent cancer-causing proteins from forming.
The study team says it is too soon to say whether dietary consumption of olive oil may help prevent brain cancer. Their findings, however, point towards possible therapies based on the oil to prevent brain cancer from occurring.
Scientists from the University of Edinburgh analysed the effect of oleic acid on a cell molecule, known as miR-7, which is active in the brain and is known to suppress the formation of tumours.
They found that oleic acid prevents a cell protein, known as MSI2, from stopping production of miR-7. In this way, the olive oil component supports the production of miR-7, which helps prevent tumours from forming.
Researchers made their discoveries in tests on human cell extracts and in living cells in the lab. The Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust funded the study, published in the Journal of Molecular Biology.
Dr. Gracjan Michlewski of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences, who led the study, said: “While we cannot yet say that olive oil in the diet helps prevent brain cancer, our findings do suggest that oleic acid can support the production of tumour-suppressing molecules in cells grown in the lab. Further studies could help determine the role that olive oil might have in brain health.”
Also, walking for just 30 minutes a day can boost the chances of beating cancer by almost half, research shows. Separate studies involving breast and bowel cancer patients found that regular exercise had a huge impact on survival.
The first was carried out by a team from Harvard University who followed 992 men with stage three bowel cancer, which had spread to nearby tissue, for seven years. Stage three is the second most advanced form of cancer, meaning it is large and fast-growing.
Patients who did 30 minutes’ moderate exercise five days a week and ate healthily were 42 per cent less likely to die. They also lived longer if the cancer returned.
The second study, by Australian researchers, looked at 194 women who had recently undergone surgery to remove breast cancer.
Half of patients were told to do 180 minutes’ moderate activity a week for at least eight months – although many carried on for longer. The other half continued about their normal lives and both groups were examined after eight years.
The team from the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane found that women who had exercised were 55 per cent more likely to still be alive. The majority of patients in both studies did brisk walking as their main activity but heavy cleaning, gentle cycling and mowing the lawn also counted.
Scientists believe that even moderate exercise can slow tumour growth or prevent their returning by reducing levels of hormones. They include insulin, which helps tumour cells multiply, as well as oestrogen in women, which encourages the development of breast cancer.
Exercise is particularly important for bowel cancer as it reduces inflammation, which can lead to cells multiplying and forming tumours. It also prevents patients becoming obese, as fat tissue produces hormones that stimulate tumour growth.
The bowel cancer study was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago, the world’s largest cancer meeting. Also, cancer patients are more likely to survive their battle if they live in the countryside, new research suggests.
Being surrounded by trees and fields in every direction reduces the risk of death by 29 per cent for those with the disease. Experts believe it could be down to the ease of getting a GP appointment in rural villages, allowing symptoms to be addressed quickly.
A closer relationship with the doctor may offer another explanation for the results of the British study, which city-dwellers often struggle to develop. Scientists also hinted that those living away from urban areas are more likely to be affluent – a factor known to increase someone’s life expectancy.