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Benefits of Olive Oil: Good for the Heart
Olive oil has gained a reputation as something of a health food in recent years. A large body of research shows that eating olive oil can improve your cholesterol level and lower your risk of heart disease. Two studies suggest another health reason to eat olive oil — it may protect against breast cancer.
Women living in countries bordering the Mediterranean, particularly Greece, Spain and Italy, are only about half as likely to die of breast cancer as women in Northern Europe and the United States. Scientists have speculated the reason might lie in the traditional Mediterranean diet. But what in the diet causes the lower risk no one knew.
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health teamed up with scientists in Athens. They gave detailed dietary questionnaires to more than 800 Greek women with breast cancer and compared their eating habits with those of Greek women who didn't have breast cancer. The scientists reported their findings in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Harvard epidemiologist Demetrios Tekapoulos explained that women who ate large amounts of fruits and vegetables appeared to lower their risk of breast cancer. But Tekapoulos also found a reduction in risk of 25 percent for women who consumed olive oil more than once per day.
A similar study in Spain showed about a 30 to 35 percent reduction in breast cancer risk among women who consumed more than two teaspoons of olive oil per day.
Olive oil contains a substance called oleic acid, which blocks the action of the cancer causing oncogene HER-2/neu that is found in one third of all breast cancer sufferers. Oleic acid also boosts the effectiveness of a breast cancer drug called Herceptin, which has helped to prolong the lives of many patients.
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