Palm oil is found in many foods, especially fast food. According to a new study in mice, the palmitic acid it contains can promote the spread of metastases.
Pizza, french fries and chocolate spreads, but also shampoo, shower gel, skin cream, candles, cleansers and lubricants – the list of products with palm oil can go on. The problem: The main component of palm oil is palmitine – this fatty acid, with long-term consumption, can promote the spread of tumors in the mouth and skin. This is the result of a recent study from Spain published in the specialized journal “Nature”.
The fatty acids in palm oil have been viewed critically for a long time
Salvador Aznar-Pineta is a professor at the Institute for Biomedical Research (IRB) in Barcelona and lead author of the study. In an interview with the British newspaper “The Guardian”, the scientist said: “There is something very special about palmitic acid, which strongly promotes metastases.”
Linoleic acid or oleic acid is found in flaxseed or olive oil, for example. Aznahr-Benitah and his team note that these fatty acids do not promote the formation of metastases. Scientists say that none of the omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids tested generally increase the risk of cancer.
It appears to differ with palmitine. The IRB study, conducted in mice, showed that this fatty acid promoted the formation of metastases over the long term. According to the researchers, cancer cells continue to spread rapidly even if they have been in contact with palmitic acid for a short period of time.
In order to spread – or metastasize – cancer cells need certain nutrients. According to researchers, they are highly dependent on fatty acids. The IRB study shows that oral and skin cancers are more likely to spread when rats are also given palmitic acid. Through genetic changes in affected cells, palmitic acid actually appears to regenerate cancerous cells. As a result, new networks of cells that do not belong directly to the tumor can form. However, that would encourage the spread of cancer.
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As Salvador Aznar-Benetah explains, the study could help find ways to prevent malignancy. The researcher and his team are now planning another study using special proteins that interfere with the dangerous interaction of tumors with palmitic acid found in palm oil. This is a more realistic treatment approach than prescribing specific diets for patients, regardless of whether they like pizza or Nutella, for example.
- Pascual, G, Dominguez, D, Elosua-Baes, M et al. (2021). Dietary palmitic acid enhances promacetic memory via Schwann cells. temper nature.
- Hannah Devlin. The acid in palm oil is linked to the spread of cancer (Accessed November 15-21.)