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Olive Oil Compound Kills Cancer Cells: Spares Healthy Functioning Cells

Researchers from Rutgers University have found that an ingredient in olive oil will kill cancer cells in under an hour. The researchers tested a compound called oleocanthal, a central component of extra virgin olive oil, and found that it caused the premature death of cancer cells in the laboratory by puncturing cancer cell vesicles, called lysosomes.

“We needed to determine if oleocanthal was targeting that protein and causing the cells to die,” says Paul Breslin, Ph.D., a professor of nutritional sciences in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers and co-author of the study, published in Molecular and Cellular Oncology.

The research also found that the olive oil compound didn’t damage healthy cells. Breslin states that the compound merely “put them to sleep” for a day, after which they resumed their normal, healthy functioning.

Senior author David Foster, Ph.D., of Hunter College, points out that additional studies are necessary to determine if the compound halts tumor growth. “We also need to understand why it is that cancerous cells are more sensitive to oleocanthal than non-cancerous cells,” he says.

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