Evidence is growing that olive oil can protect against bowel cancer. Research carried out by doctors at Oxford University has found that olive oil has protective benefits. They found that it reacts with acid in the stomach to prevent the onset of bowel and rectum cancers.
They studied bowel cancer rates in 28 countries across the world, most of which were in Europe. However, rates of the disease in the UK, the USA, Brazil, Colombia, Canada and China were also examined. The researchers found that three dietary factors could affect a person's risks of developing the disease. They suggested that people who ate a lot of meat and fish, as opposed to those who ate mostly vegetables and cereals, were at increased risk.
This is because a high meat intake can increase the amount of a bile acid called deoxycyclic acid, which reduced the activity of an enzyme called diamine oxidase (DAO). DAO is thought to regulate the cell turnover in the bowel lining and reduced levels of this enzyme could be responsible for abnormal cell turnover.
But the Oxford researchers found the olive oil seemed to reduce the amount of bile acid and to increase DAO levels, thus protecting against abnormal cell growth and cancer. Dr Michael Goldacre, one of the authors of the report, said their findings backed up previous studies. "What our findings suggest is that countries with high intakes of olive oil have relatively lower incidence rates of colorectal cancer than would be suggested considering other aspects of their diet.
"We suggest that olive oil does have independent protective affects."