Food News: Olive Oil and Cancer

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Northwestern University lab tests on breast cancer cells showed the oleic acid found in olive oil sharply cut levels of a gene thought to trigger breast cancer. But don’t go pouring on that olive oil yet. Dr. Kenney advises, “Test tube studies are not all that convincing. This study suggests part of the benefit of the Mediterranean diet might be the oleic acid found in olive oil. What about the 70% of women whose breast cancer is not associated with this gene? What if women get fat eating olive oil in the hopes that it reduces breast cancer? Obesity raises estrogen levels and promotes breast cancer in postmenopausal women. The primary reason the Mediterranean diet helps protect against breast cancer is not simply because it is high in oleic acid. Higher fruit, vegetables, fish and less meat and dairy might very well be more important than olive oil, particularly since they are unlikely to promote weight gain as adding lots of olive oil (or any other fat) to the diet is very likely to do.

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