Olive oil: A potent natural oil to prevent Colorectal Cancer

Olive oil: A potent natural oil to prevent Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer (also known as colorectal adenocarcinoma) is the fourth cause of cancer-related mortality and the third most common cancer worldwide. The incidence of this deadly cancer is steadily rising. Notably, dietary habits are thought to contribute to about 50% of cases of colorectal cancer.

Therefore, following a healthy and nutritious diet could primarily prevent the occurrence of colorectal cancer. There is a rising body of evidence the adoption of the Mediterranean diet could combat the onset and progression of various types of cancer, including colorectal cancer.

Olive oil, a vital component of the Mediterranean diet, is immensely rich in antioxidants. These antioxidants safeguard your body from cellular damage that can lead to a diverse range of deleterious diseases. This potent dietary chemopreventive agent has been found to influence multiple key stages in the colon carcinogenesis pathway, thus exerting a protective effect on the development of colorectal cancer.

Let us explore how olive oil can help you to prevent colorectal cancer:

  • What is olive oil?
  • What does olive oil contain?
  • Kinds of olive oil
  • Health benefits of olive oil
  • Effects of olive oil phenols on colorectal cancer
  • Effects of olive oil fatty acids on colorectal cancer
  • Effects of olive oil on gut microbiota
  • Other cancer-preventive roles of olive oil
  • Conclusion

What is olive oil?

Olive oil is commonly extracted from the olive fruit of the olive tree (botanical name Olea europaea; family Oleaceae). Olives are a traditional native crop of the Mediterranean Basin.

What does olive oil contain?

Monounsaturated fatty acids are the predominant fat present in olive oil. This natural oil also contains

  • fatty acids such as oleic and linoleic acid
  • triterpenes (maslinic acid)
  • secoiridoids (oleuropein and oleocanthal)
  • lignans (pinoresinol)
  • flavonoids (apigenin)
  • hydrocarbons (squalene)
  • simple phenols (tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol)
  • phytosterols (β-sitosterol)

Kinds of olive oil

Following are the various grades of olive oil

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Standard Virgin oil
  • Pure or blended olive oil
  • Refined Oil
  • Pomace oil

Health benefits of olive oil

Olive oil possesses excellent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties. Packed with numerous health benefits, this nutritious oil improves the function of blood vessels, may help prevent strokes, lowers blood pressure, may aid weight loss, may combat depression, can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, and can reduce joint pain and swelling from rheumatoid arthritis.

Effects of olive oil phenols on colorectal cancer

A study depicted that the incidence of colorectal cancer did not seem to rise in consumers of food fried in olive oil. The polyphenols present in olive oil can alleviate oxidative damage to cellular DNA thus aiding cancer-prevention.

The elevated levels of polyphenols (hydroxytyrosol, oleuropein) in olive oil

  • May considerably decline the amount of carcinogenic products of lipid peroxidation upon olive oil storage.
  • May induce positive epigenetic alterations and microRNAs expression pattern
  • Aids to lower the risk of colorectal cancer development.

A study revealed that olive oil hydroxytyrosol acetate may exert an antitumor effect on human colon adenocarcinoma cells. Hydroxytyrosol present in olive oil has substantial anti-inflammatory and antitumor effects.

  • Activates caspase-3 and influences the transcription of genes involved in apoptosis
  • In colon tumor cells, hydroxytyrosol may considerably suppress cell cycle progression by downregulating epidermal growth factor (EGFR) expression
  • Upregulates xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes and raises carcinogen detoxification

In another study, hydroxytyrosol enhanced the effects of EGFR inhibitors thus producing a robust inhibition of colon cancer cell growth. The purified extracts from olive mill wastewater, extremely rich in hydroxytyrosol, illustrated chemopreventive and anti-angiogenic role (both in vivo and in vitro) on CT-26 colorectal cancer cell line.

Effects of olive oil fatty acids on colorectal cancer

Some studies emphasized that oleic acid, squalene, and linoleic acid present in olive oil could inhibit the progression of colorectal cancer.

Effects of olive oil on gut microbiota

The interaction between olive oil intake and gut microbiota could substantially regulate colonic microbial composition or activity, with a possible role in preventing the progression of colorectal tumors. The gut microbiota can degrade some vital constituents found in olive oil. This, in turn, generates active metabolites having a chemopreventive role.

Other cancer-preventive roles of olive oil

In a study, the administration of oleocanthal present in olive oil was found to minimize inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) development. Due to their anti-inflammatory properties, dietary olive oil phenols seem to alter the clinicopathological history in IBD. This, in turn, lowers colorectal cancer risk.

In azoxymethane-induced colorectal cancer in rats, olive oil depicted a chemopreventive effect against colon carcinogenesis. Its anticancer property may be related to:

  • Modulation of prostaglandin E2 synthesis and arachidonic acid metabolism in the colonic mucosa, exerted by oleic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid present in olive oil.

In colorectal cancer, apigenin present in olive oil modulated various signaling pathways and displayed dose-dependent activity on tumor migration, invasion, and proliferation. In colorectal tumor cells, luteolin found in olive oil was found to modulate the G2/M cell cycle arrest and induced apoptosis.

A study portrayed that maslinic acid found in olive oil represents a promising chemotherapeutic or chemopreventive compound to combat colorectal cancer. A case-control study conducted in a Chinese population illustrated that the consuming ß-sitosterol, a phytosterol found in olive oil, was linked with the minimization of colorectal cancer risk.


Loaded with powerful antioxidants, olive oil is a promising therapeutic agent for managing colorectal cancer. When purchasing olive oil, the best option is to select an extra virgin olive oil, as this undergoes less processing and is more likely to preserve its vital antioxidant content. Instead of using other types of oils, the intake of olive oil should be advocated in a healthy diet. Olive oil with its distinct flavor can add charm to your dishes. Future clinical trials should focus on investigating the beneficial effects of olive oil and its constituents in humans.

Live healthy and eat healthy. Include antioxidants and phytochemicals-enriched olive oil in your diet !!

You might also check: Anti-cancer foods, Anti-cancer vitamins, Cancer-preventing spices

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