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The Myth of Olive Oil

There was a lot of hoopla in the press yesterday about a discovery by a group of Northwestern University researchers who found oleic acid, an ingredient of olive oil (believed to be a major contributor to the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet), drastically limited the levels of a gene that triggers breast cancer.

Oleic acid cut activity levels of the Her-2/neu gene, which occurs at high levels in more than 20 percent of breast cancer patients and is associated with highly aggressive tumors with a poor prognosis. It also boosted the effectiveness of herceptin, a breast cancer drug which has helped to prolong the lives of many patients.

But there's a major caveat to all this good news about emphasizing olive oil and the Mediterrean diet: While olive oil can and should be a healthy part of your diet, don't use it as a cooking oil.

Olive oil is primarily a monounsaturated fat, meaning it has one double bond in its fatty acid structure. In reality, the overabundance of oleic acid creates an imbalance on the cellular level that can inhibit prostaglandin production and can increase the risk of breast cancer and heart disease. That's why I recommend coconut oil for cooking. It's rich in lauric acid which is a proven antiviral and immune system builder.

BBC News January 10, 2005

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