Extra virgin olive oil has the capacity to induce rapid death in cancer cells while leaving healthy cells intact. The many implicated health benefits of olive oil is well known, however scientists have been unable to effectively confirm the anti-cancer phenomenon until now. The processing of olive oils also highly differentiates the concentration of anti-cancer compounds.

Oleocanthal (OC), a phenolic compound in extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), has been implicated in the health benefits associated with diets rich in EVOO.

Researchers have discovered that the key to understanding the effect of oleocanthal on cancerous cells lies in its reaction with the lysosomes of the cell.

Lysosomes are subcellular units where cells store waste. The oleocanthal ruptures the membranes surrounding the lysosomes in cancer cells, causing cancer cell death within 30 minutes to an hour while leaving noncancerous cells unharmed.

This suggests that the lysosomal membranes of cancerous cells are weaker than those of noncancerous cells.

These findings on the effects of oleocanthal on cancerous and noncancerous cells lead to larger implications about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in extra virgin olive oil. While the entire Mediterranean diet likely has many benefits, this study points directly to this olive oil phenolic as playing an especially important role.