Keep the olive oil flowing

Fortunately, throughout the government’s “smear” campaign against butter in the 1960s and 1970s, many Americans kept their faith in olive oil. In fact, in many Italian-American families I know, they faithfully combined butter and olive oil to deliciously sauté vegetables, garlic, onions, and pasta in the pan. And they will all probably live longer because of it.

You see, olive oil is an essential part of the healthy Mediterranean Diet. And mounds of research show it protects against pollutants, helps aging bones, supports the immune system, and perhaps even helps prevent Alzheimer’s dementia. And when it comes to cancer, olive oil’s effects are truly astounding…

Cell damage happens all the time in your body. Normally, the body gets rid of any unwanted, damaged cells.  One way is through a process called apoptosis. It’s a kind of cellular suicide that helps keep you healthy.

But cancer cells don’t die off easily. They keep mutating and dividing, and stealing your blood supply.

In a brand-new lab study, U.S. researchers found a compound in extra-virgin olive oil called oleocanthal eradicated pancreatic cancer cells in less than one hour.

You see, oleocanthal works by breaking open the lysosomes of the cancer cells. (Lysosomes are like the disposal center of the cells, destroying waste products.) But the lysosomes of cancer cells are much more fragile than normal cells, perhaps because of the more aggressive and rapid growth rates of cancer.

The researchers discovered when oleocanthal breaks open the cancer cell lysosomes, they release protein enzymes that attack and destroy the cancer cells themselves.

Interestingly, oleocanthal seemed to slow down the normal cells for about 24 hours, but then they rebounded as if nothing happened.

Of course, this research is groundbreaking.

The next step would be to try it in lab animals. And then on humans. But all of this research is very expensive and time consuming. So it could take many years, if not decades.

But why wait?

In study after study, research shows the olive-oil-rich Mediterranean Diet dramatically lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke, many cancers, and neurological disorders. Furthermore, plenty of studies focus specifically on olive oil itself, and have come to similar results.

Of course, there will always be naysayers.

In fact, I just read an anecdote on the internet by a cardiologist named John McDougall, M.D. Apparently, Dr. McDougall hasn’t gotten the memo yet that the government’s decades-long advice to prevent heart disease by cutting fat was wrong all along. (The government scientists themselves now admit to this blunder.)

In the article, Dr. McDougall told a touching tale of a patient who became a vegan on the day he suffered a heart attack and had to undergo emergency coronary angioplasty with placement of artificial stents.

There are several problems with Dr. McDougall’s touching story…

First, I can only assume Dr. McDougall, as a cardiologist, is well aware of the huge controversy about the effectiveness of angioplasty. This dangerous procedure has a 10 to 15 percent failure rate. That number might not sound very high, but because the procedure is so common, it translates into 50,000 to 75,000 failures per year. (I’ll tell you more about the dangers of this common heart procedure in an upcoming Daily Dispatch.)

Second, veganism is poor advice for anyone. And especially for weak heart patients. Most vegans suffer from outright nutritional deficiencies of B vitamins, vitamin D, and minerals, which are essential for cardiac function.

Third, Dr. McDougall completely omitted the importance of healthy fats to heart patients. Instead, he recommended heart patients take up a plant-based diet built around starches (carbs).

Then he compounded the error by saying he essentially recommends the Mediterranean Diet. But that makes no sense. The Mediterranean Diet contains healthy amounts of olive oil, as well as non-vegan meat and fish! Furthermore, clear evidence proves starches, grains and sugar are the real culprits behind today’s epidemics of obesity, Type II diabetes and cardio-metabolic heart disease.

Oh yes, Dr. McDougall also jumped on the American Heart Association’s low-salt bandwagon. He said heart patients should limit sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg per day.

Here again, there are several problems with Dr. McDougall’s argument…

First, research shows it’s virtually impossible to maintain a diet with such low sodium intake. Second, men and women who do try to achieve these lower salt intakes (not even as low as the ridiculous guidelines) have more heart problems than those with higher salt intakes.

I wonder if some of these cardiologists read the modern medical research. Or are they too busy writing their next celebrity diet books that seem guaranteed to keep them in business?

In any case, go ahead and keep olive oil as a part of your heart healthy diet. Drizzle it generously on your wild-caught salmon and fresh vegetables. I like to put mine on the grill at this time of year.


  1. “Oleocanthal rapidly and selectively induces cancer cell death via lysosomal membrane permeabilization,” Molecular & Cellular Oncology; published online January 2015