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The Lancet Oncology

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Waste from Olive Grinding May Inhibit Colorectal Cancer

Researchers from the University of Granada and the University of Barcelona have shown that treatment with maslinic acid, a triterpenoid compound isolated from olive-skin pomace, results in a significant inhibition of cell proliferation and causes apoptotic death in colorectal cancer cells.

Triterpenoids, which also includes maslinic or crataegolic acid, are compounds present in a wide range of plants used in traditional medicine and known to have anti-carcinogenic properties. Low concentrations of maslinic acid, a pentacyclic terpene, can be found in plants with medicinal properties. However, the compound is present in high concentrations in the leaf and the olive skin wax extracted from alpeorujo, the crushed olive waste from olive grinding, or dry olive-pomace oil.

Based on the results of the study, the researchers feel that the compound has the capacity to inhibit or prevent cancer as well as regulating apoptosis or programmed death in human HT29 colon adenocarcinoma cell lines via the intrinsic mitochondrial pathway. Scientifics now suggest that this mechanism of action could be a useful new therapeutic strategy for the treatment of colorectal cancer as it allows controlling the hyperplasia and hypertrophy processes.

A novel compound
This study is the first to investigate the precise molecular mechanisms of the anti-carcinogenic and pro-apoptotic effects of maslinic acid against colorectal cancer. Chemopreventive agents of a natural origin, often a part of our daily diet, may provide a cheap, effective way of controlling such diseases such as colorectal cancer. A wide range of European studies in recent years has shown that triterpenoids hinder carcinogenesis by intervening in pathways such as carcinogen activation, DNA repair, cell cycle arrest, cell differentiation and the induction of apoptosis in cancer cells.

Therapeutic use in HIV
In a number of previous but unrelated studies, researchers from the university of Granada have also shown that maslinic or crataegolic acid inhibits serine proteases or serine endopeptidases,
an enzyme used by HIV to release itself from the infected cell into the extracellular environment and, consequently, to spread the infection into the whole body. They determined that the use of maslinic acid can effective reduce, up to 80%, AIDS spreading in the body. Furthermore, maslinic acid is very active against opportunistic parasitic infections, including protozoa Cryptosporidium, a parasite commonly found in HIV-patients presenting with intestine infection and diarrhea.

The therapeutic effects of maslinic acid in the fight against AIDS are now simultaneously being studied by the researchers in Granada and by Professor Dr. Vallejo Nájera and his team at the Hospital Carlos III in Madrid, Spain.

Anti-inflammatory properties
While maslinic acid is only one of the compounds found in the leaf and the olive skin wax, researches have long observed the potential health and medical benefits of olive oil. Researchers from the Lipids and Atherosclerosis Unit at the Hospital Universitario Reina Sofía de Córdoba in Spain, carried out a study in order to determine the influence of the micronutrients of certain fats on cardiovascular diseases, diabetes or cancer. They also tried to discern if the consumption of these micronutrients could possibly modify the inflammatory process in healthy people.

Doctor Pablo Pérez Martínez, one of the researchers, studying these effects, said that ‘the main property of olive oil is its richness of antioxidants, which makes it a unique fat. Therefore, we must clarify which is the added value of its components, including maslinic acid, as that is the only way to establish that a healthy diet must contain olive oil as its main fat.’ Martínez believes that because ‘olive oil is… the main source of fats… in the Mediterranean diet, it provides [this diet] with high-nutritional-value micro-components.’ According to the researcher, such a diet reduces LDL-C, brings arterial pressure down, improves diabetes control and lessen effects from thrombosis.

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