Palm oil used in chocolate spreads, biscuits and cakes ‘produces cancer’

Cleared trees in a forest located in the concession of Karya Makmur Abadi, Borneo, which is being developed into a palm oil plantation (Image: Getty Images)

Cleared trees in a forest located in the concession of Karya Makmur Abadi, Borneo, which is being developed into a palm oil plantation (Getty)

Palm oil used in chocolate spreads, biscuits and cakes nourishes cancer, warns new research.

The vegetable fat changes the tumors’ DNA – making them more aggressive, say researchers.

Now a drug has been developed that reverses the process – giving hope of destroying different types of the disease.

Senior author Professor Salvador Aznar-Benitah, from Barcelona’s Institute of Science and Technology, said: ‘If things go as planned, we could start the first clinical trial in a few years.

‘I am very excited about this and we are investing a lot of effort to create the best possible treatment that cancer patients will hopefully be able to benefit from in the near future.’

Palm oil gives chocolate spread its smooth texture and long shelf life. It is found in a host of other products – including bread and margarine.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the World Health Organization have previously stated that it is more carcinogenic than any other oil.

Chocolate spread is great - until you discover that there is palm oil inside it (Getty)

Chocolate spread is great – until you discover that there is palm oil inside it (Getty)

Now, a study has shed new light on the connection – opening the door to treatments that prevent cancer from migrating or metastasizing to other organs.

It remains the leading cause of death. Most patients can only be treated – and not cured.

Experiments on mice found palmitic acid, the most important saturated fatty acid in palm oil, foreign cancer of the mouth and deadly skin melanomas.

Other fatty acids – omega-9 and omega-6 fats found in olive oil and flaxseed – did not show the same effect.

No one, including palmitic acid, increased the risk of developing cancer in the first place.

Prof Aznar-Benitah said: ‘I think it is too early to determine what type of diet can be taken by patients with metastatic cancer who would slow down the metastatic process.

“That being 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 do not concentrate on this field of research. Instead, we focus on new potential therapeutic goals that we could inhibit and that could have a real therapeutic benefit to the patient regardless of their diet. ‘

Fatty acids are the building blocks of fat in our body and the food we eat. They also nourish tumors – but it has been unclear how.

When diets for laboratory rodents were supplemented with palmitic acid, metastases increased. There were also long-term effects on the genome.

Cancer cells that were exposed to palmitic acid for a short period of time spread rapidly – even when removed from the diet.

The study in Nature showed that this ‘memory’ is caused by epigenetic changes in how our genes work.

Cancer cells attacking healthy human cells 3d render.

Cancer cells that were exposed to palmitic acid for a short period of time spread rapidly – even when removed from the diet. (Getty)

They alter the function of metastatic cancer cells – so that they can form a neural network around the tumor and spread more easily.

By understanding this communication, the team found a way to block it.

Antibodies to stop metastases in a variety of cancers are being developed by ONA Therapeutics, a start-up co-founded by Prof Aznar-Benitah.

The company has secured 30 million euros from private investors. Tests on patients with different types of the disease should begin in 2023.

Dr. Helen Rippon, CEO of Worldwide Cancer Research, which co-funded the study, said: ‘This discovery is a major breakthrough in our understanding of how diet and cancer are linked, and perhaps more importantly, how we can use this knowledge to start new . cure for cancer.

‘Metastasis is estimated to be responsible for 90% of all cancer deaths – that’s about nine million deaths a year globally.

‘Learning more about what causes cancer to spread and – most importantly – how to stop it is the way forward to reduce those numbers.

‘Discovery research like this is incredibly exciting because it marks the beginning of a journey that will ultimately lead to more lives saved and more time spent with loved ones.

“We are all very excited to see the results of this clinical trial and the future impact these results may have on people with metastatic cancer.”

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