Cancer

Natural Isn’t Everything: Palm Oil and Cancer | by Cody Sovis | Less Cancer Journal | Nov, 2021

Cody Sovis
A man-made irrigation canal winds along a rice paddy.

Many in the media and in our family circles are quick to attack food additives. There are plenty of chemicals used in food that can be harmful and many of those are processed, manufactured, and probably shouldn’t be consumed by humans.

But natural ingredients aren’t healthy by default.

Even as ingredients like carrageenan and guar gum get thrown under the bus for largely unsubstantiated claims of health risks, others get into our kitchen without question. For food manufacturers, palm oil is a dream come true and the perfect additive to put on an ingredients list. It performs an important function in spreadable foods like Nutella and butter a smooth texture. It’s also an excellent preservative. Finally, it’s an ingredient we can all pronounce, and that makes it an easier sell to consumers increasingly on the lookout for risk additives in their foods.

A new study has found that palm oil can speed up the spread of cancer. Not too long ago, the European Food Safety Authority and the World Health Organization declared palm oil to present more of a cancer risk than any other oil approved for human use.

The main saturated fat in palm oil, palmitic acid, promoted higher rates of mouth cancer and skin melanomas in mice. Researchers compared the effects of both omega-9 and omega-6, saturated fats found in olive oil and flaxseed, did not have a similar effect.

Equally worrying is the long-term effects of a diet that includes palm oil. When cancer cells were present in mice, even short exposures to palm oil caused cancers to spread. Even when palm oil was removed from the rodents’ diets, tumors continued to grow and spread much more rapidly than in mice not exposed to palm oil. Scientists believe palm oil can influence cells at the genetic level and effectively communicate changes between cells that increase the risk of cancer spreading.

To fight cancer metastasizing, researchers are looking to create antibodies that can stop or slow metastasis in a variety of cancers. One company, funded primarily through private investors, believes it will have the ability to test its product on patients in 2023.


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