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   Nov 13

Acid found in key food item may make cancer more aggressive, study finds

Palm oil is a common food ingredient, but recent research indicates that a fatty acid contained within it could speed up the spread of cancer and now clinical trials are starting to stop this.

An acid found in palm oil has been found to cause cancer to be more aggressive, according to a study. 

 Palm oil is used in a huge range of popular products, including chocolate spreads, biscuits and cakes . 

In Nutella, palm oil helps preserve the spread for longer and also gives it its smooth texture.

Professor Salvador Aznar-Benitah, senior group leader at IRB Barcelona and ICREA research professor, and senior author of the paper, said: “If things keep on going as planned, we could start the first clinical trial in a couple of years.

“I am very excited about this and we are investing a lot of effort to generate the best possible therapy that cancer patients will hopefully be able to benefit from in the nearby future.”

So how is palm oil harmful to cancer patients and what is being done to stop it?

Does palm oil cause cancer?

The study did found that palm oil does not cause cancer, but can speed up the rate at which cancer cells spread and develop.

Palm oil contains palmitic acid, this is what is believed to speed up the process of ‘metastasis’. This is the spreading of cancer cells and what remains the main cause of death in cancer cases.

The study found palmitic acid to spread mouth cancer and melanoma in mice.

Cancer cells exposed to the acid were found to be extremely metastatic, or keen to spread quickly.

The research will lead to clinical trials aimed at stopping metastasis in cancer, as the researchers uncovered a way to block the process.

Professor Aznar-Benitah said: “I think it is too early to determine which type of diet could be consumed by patients with metastatic cancer that would slow down the metastatic process.

“That said, based on our results one would think that a diet poor in palmitic acid could be effective in slowing down the metastatic process, but much more work is needed to determine this.

“We are not concentrating on this direction of research, instead we are focusing on new potential therapeutic targets that we could inhibit and that could have a real therapeutic benefit for the patient irrespective of their diet.”

What is palm oil used for?

Palm oil is a controversial substance and is an edible vegetable oil that comes from palm trees.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) estimates that palm oil is in 50% of packaged supermarket products.

The versatility of the oil means it can be used in anything from shower gel and deodorant, to pizza and sweets.

WWF explained the environmental impact palm oil has: “Palm oil has been and continues to be a major driver of deforestation of some of the world’s most biodiverse forests, destroying the habitat of already endangered species like the Orangutan, pygmy elephant and Sumatran rhino.”

“This forest loss coupled with conversion of carbon rich peat soils are throwing out millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.”

Source: Mirror

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