New research suggests that olive oils may be preventing damage to body cells that lead to cancer.

In a study conducted on 182 European men, the prevalence of oxidative damage to cells' genetic material that could initiate cancer development was reduced after regular olive oil usage.
Olive oil is a dietary staple in South Europe and this may be the main reason why the cancer prevalence is much higher in Northern than in Southern Europe.

The study included men between the ages of 20 and 60 from five European countries. They had been consuming a quarter cup of olive oil throughout each day. After the study had finished, a significant reduction of 13% was noticed in a substance called 8oxodG, which is used as a marker of oxidative damage to cells' DNA.

Damage to cells' DNA occurs when byproducts of metabolism called reactive oxygen species overwhelm the body's antioxidant defenses. Olive oil is believed to contain a number of compounds, phenols that act as powerful antioxidants.

However, scientists believe that the olive oil protective function doesn’t lie in the antioxidant phenols but in the monounsaturated fats in olive oil.
At the initial testing, just before the study began, men from Northern Europe had higher levels of 8oxodG than those from Southern Europe. However, Southern diet is not just richer in olive oils but also in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish.

Regardless of its benefits, olive oil usage should not be a substitute for calorie control and regular exercise, researchers suggest.