Researchers from Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark report that people who use plenty of olive oil in their diet may be helping to protect against cell damage that may eventually lead to cancer development.
The study, of 182 men between the ages of 20 and 60, compared olive oil consumption and oxidative damage to cell's genetic material. (Oxidative damage is caused by free radicals, unstable oxygen compounds formed as a part of normal metabolism.) For two weeks the participants consumed a quarter cup of olive oil throughout the day. At the end of the study researchers measured oxidative damage and found a 13 percent reduction in a substance associated with cell damage.
These findings may explain why some types of cancer, including breast, colon, ovarian and prostate, are lower among populations where olive oil is a staple in the diet, including Mediterranean countries in southern Europe. Researchers speculate the protective effect is a result of the oil's monounsaturated fat content, although more studies are needed to confirm that.
Despite its healthy effects, olive oil is still a source of fat. Per tablespoon it contains 121 calories and 14 grams of fat. If you plan to consume more olive oil, you'll need to substitute it for other foods like sweets or refined starchy foods in order not to gain weight.
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