Palm oil is found in many foods, especially fast food. According to a new study done on rats, the palmitic acid present in it can promote the spread of metastases.
Pizza, french fries and chocolate spreads, but also shampoo, shower gel, skin cream, candles, detergents, lubricants – the list of products containing palm oil could go on and on. The problem: Palm oil’s main component is palmitin—and this fatty acid can promote the spread of tumors on the pimples and skin if consumed over a long period of time. This is the result of a recent study from Spain, which was published in the specialist journal “Nature”.
The fatty acids in palm oil have long been viewed as critical
Salvador Ajnar-Benitah 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 special about palmitic acid that strongly promotes metastasis.”
For example, linoleic acid or oleic acid is found in flaxseed or olive oil. Aznahar-Benita and her team observed that these fatty acids did not promote the formation of metastases. Scientists say that none of the omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids tested generally appear to increase the risk of developing cancer.
Apparently this is different from palmitin. The IRB study, which was done with rats, showed that this fatty acid promoted the formation of metastases over a long period of time. According to the researchers, cancer cells continue to spread rapidly, even if they are exposed to palmitic acid for a short time.
Cancer cells need certain nutrients – in order to spread or metastasize. According to the researchers, they are heavily dependent on fatty acids. IRB studies show that the risk of developing oral and skin cancers is higher when rats are also given palmitic acid. Through genetic changes in affected cells, palmitic acid actually renews cancer cells. As a result, new networks of cells that are not directly related to the tumor can form. However, this will encourage the spread of cancer.
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As Salvador Ajnar-Benitah explains, the study could help find ways to prevent metastasis. The researchers and their team are now planning another study with special proteins that interfere with a tumor’s dangerous response to palmitic acid contained in palm oil. This is a more realistic therapeutic approach than prescribing certain diets to patients, whether they prefer pizza or Nutella, for example.
- Pascual, G., Dominguez, D., Alosa-Bayes, M. Physiotherapy. At al. (2021). Dietary palmitic acid promotes a prometastatic memory via Schwann cells, Nature.
- Hannah Devlin. Acid found in palm oil linked to spread of cancer (Accessed November 15, 21)
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