By Kim Pierce,
Researchers with Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas recently partnered with their Italian counterparts in Naples to determine whether extra-virgin olive oil has anti-cancer properties.
Why did they suspect EVOO, cooking celebrity Rachael Ray’s shorthand for extra-virgin olive oil? The researchers noticed that populations that follow a Mediterranean diet have a lower incidence of colorectal cancer, and a Mediterranean diet is rich in EVOO.
They started with oil from two olive varieties, Caiazzana and Ravece, and worked with cell lines in the laboratory. They found that some extracts from the Caiazzana EVOO had a potent cancer-preventive effect, while extracts from the Ravece EVOO did not. The difference? They suspect the compound pinoresinol in the Caiazzana EVOO.
The researchers achieved results at a substantially lower pinoresinol concentration than with purified pinoresinol, suggesting the possibility of a synergistic effect among various similar extracts in olive oil. The research results were published in the journal Carcinogenesis.
Does this mean you should add oil from Caiazzana olives to your pantry? Probably not. This work was done in a laboratory using cells, not people. But if it piques your interest, note that sesame seeds, not olives, are the plant kingdom’s pinoresinol powerhouse, according to a 2005 Dutch report in the British Journal of Nutrition. A number of other foods, such as flaxseed, curly kale, white cabbage and broccoli, also are good sources.
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