Cancer is a serious disease caused by the abnormal division of cells in the body. There are over hundred types of cancer depending on which body part they start, for example, liver cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, skin cancer, etc.
The abnormal division of the cells is initiated because of mutations in the DNA of the cells. These mutations may be genetically inherited or may be caused by many environmental factors or lifestyle factors.
These factors are pollutants like particulate matter, carcinogens like tobacco, infections, diet-related factors like obesity, less physical activity, etc.
The spread of cancer is on the rise all over the world and cure for this disease is very difficult. Moreover, the high cost and side-effects of the treatment pose as major setbacks.
As it is said, “prevention is better than cure,” it holds true for cancer the most. Prevention is the best to prevent cancer. To do this, the most feasible, effective and sensible way is through the food we eat along with a few lifestyle changes.
Argan oil is one such food that finds a place in the list of foods that prevent cancer.
What is argan oil?
Argan oil is the oil extracted from the seeds of Argan tree (Argan Spinosa), a native of semi-arid regions of Morroco.
This oil has been used since ages in these regions for culinary and cosmetic purposes. It is believed to moisturize skin and hair, prevent wrinkles and make the skin soft and glowing.
Argan oil is rich in vitamin-E, unsaturated fatty acids, sterols, triterpenes, etc. These compounds gift it with the anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-microbial and anti-cancer properties.
5 Evidence-Based Benefits of Argan oil in Cancer Prevention
Many of the constituents of argan oil possess properties of anti-inflammation, anti-oxidation, anti-carcinogenic and anti-proliferation that together make it a potent chemopreventive (cancer preventive) agent.
1. Argan oil has chemopreventive and anti-cancer potential
Chemoprevention is inhibition of development of cancer by use of a pharmacological or a natural product. Argan oil is one such natural product that has chemopreventive action.
It also has anti-cancer potential, i.e. it can destroy cancer cells.
The constituents of argan oil, i.e. tocopherols, sterols, fatty acids, triterpenes, etc. act synergistically to confer it the chemopreventive and anti-cancer potential.
In a study, Moroccan diet (has a high consumption of argan oil) was studied to identify the chemopreventive agents. This study showed the efficacy of argan oil due to the presence of its components.
In another study, argan oil rich in tocopherols were studied for its anti-cancer activity. It was found that this oil could kill the cancer cells.
What does it mean?
It means argan oil has significant chemopreventive and anti-cancer activities. Consumption of argan oil can be beneficial both in prevention and treatment of cancer.
2. Argan oil as an antioxidant protects from cancer
Free radicals are produced in the body often as a part of many metabolic processes, which are then quenched by the anti-oxidants present in the body itself.
This balance is disturbed upon exposure to pollutants, radiations, metabolic imbalance, infections, etc. This causes oxidative stress in the body by excessive production of free radicals.
These free radicals can cause damage to the DNA, causing mutations that can lead to cancer development.
The amount of anti-oxidant in the body is not sufficient to tackle enormous oxidative stress. External supplementation of antioxidants may help in this situation.
Argan oil has some strong anti-oxidant components, such as tocopherols (vitamin-E) and triterpenes like squalene.
γ-tocopherol is found to have cancer preventive effects. It is a strong anti-oxidant and prevents mutations in DNA by scavenging free radicals. Tocopherols in diet can prevent the onset of many types of cancers.
What does it mean?
It means the dietary intake of argan oil can supply the body with the extra amount of anti-oxidants. These antioxidants can scavenge the free radicals preventing damage to the DNA, thus, in turn, preventing mutations that can cause cancer.
3. The anti-inflammatory action of argan oil prevents cancer
The role of inflammation is very crucial to the development of cancer, particularly in infections related cancers.
When an infectious or non-infectious injury occurs, inflammation is a natural phenomenon at the site initiating the healing process. During this process, various factors like macrophages, cytokines are involved that can give rise to abnormal cell growth, forming tumors.
Gastric cancer is one of the most commonly known cancer, induced by chronic inflammation. The cause of this inflammation is the infection by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori.
Anti-inflammatory agents can be used to prevent cancer by arresting inflammation at an early stage.
Argan oil has anti-inflammatory action due to the presence of triterpenes like tirucallol and lupeol.
Tirucallol from other plants has been found to possess anti-inflammatory properties.
Lupeol has been recognized as an anti-inflammatory agent in various studies, and many studies have also shown its anti-cancer effects owing to this action.
In a study, lupeol has been found to be effective against colorectal cancer. These studies add to the argan oil’s potential as a chemopreventive agent.
What does it mean?
It means the regular intake of argan oil can equip the body with anti-inflammatory actions to prevent chances of chronic inflammation that may lead to cancerous situations.
4. Argan oil has anti-carcinogenic potential
Carcinogens are substances such as chemicals or radiations that can induce the formation of cancer by leading mutations in the DNA.
For example, tobacco smoke, metals like lead, asbestos, pesticides like DDT, radiations like X-rays, UV-rays, etc. are carcinogens.
Anti-carcinogens are the compounds that counteract these carcinogens and thus, prevent the development of cancer.
Schottenol, a sterol from argan oil is known to show anti-carcinogenic activities.1 Spinasterol, another sterol present in this oil is found to have anti-carcinogenic activity in an animal model.
Carcinogens are also free radicals producers. The anti-carcinogens act as quenchers of these free radicals.
Also, these compounds can interfere with metabolic pathways induced by the carcinogens to avoid the free radical production.
What does it mean?
It means argan oil’s chemopreventive potential is further increased by its anti-carcinogenic components.
5. Argan oil prevents proliferation of cancer cells
The proliferation of cells is one of the major phases in cancer. Proliferation means an increase in cell number due to cell growth or cell division. In the case of cancer, there is unregulated proliferation that leads to tumor formation.
This unregulated cell division is caused due to the failure of mechanisms of checkpoints during the replication process. Checkpoints ensure that cell replicates only if the DNA is intact, i.e. there are no abnormalities (like mutations) in the DNA.
If some aberration is found, the cell cycle is arrested (cell does not divide) and the abnormalities are either corrected, or the cell is destined to die.
But if these checkpoints fail to do so, these cells keep multiplying forming tumors.
The mechanism of action of lupeol is mainly by arresting cell cycle by interfering with different pathways and eventually leading to cell death.
What does it mean?
It means the use of argan oil can be very beneficial as a chemo-preventive agent. It is effective against the proliferation action of cells that may lead to tumor growth. This activity is crucial in preventing the onset of cancer.
Dosage of Argan oil
There is no “cancer prevention” dosage for argan oil as such. The best way to use argan oil is in the daily diet.
The daily intake 1-2 tablespoon (20-30 ml) of argan oil can be very beneficial for the body and thus boost chemopreventive activity.
This boost is a combined action of increased anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative capacity in the body.
This oil can be taken as it is or its use in mild cooking and as salad dressings is another good option.
Argan oil capsules are also available in the market, but their low capacity (1-2ml) makes it an infeasible option to meet the daily requirements.
Precautions while using argan oil
Though argan oil is considered a safe food product, there are always possibilities of some adverse effects accounting to manufacturing practices or some personal health condition.
Some of the precautions related to its use are:
The oil should be pure – If the oil is adulterated, its benefits will be reduced. Moreover, if the adulterant has some component that may react with the argan oil components to produce some harmful product, it may be harmful to the body.
Argan oil should not be used for high heat cooking – Exposing this oil to high temperatures may result in degradation of some of its constituent, limiting its benefits.
It should not be applied on wounds – Its application on wounds may lead to irritations or itching, which may be detrimental to the wound healing.
Application of argan oil on scars should be avoided – Treatment of cancer may involve some surgery causing scars. Some components of argan oil are found to hurt surgery related scars, so its use for scar reduction should be under guidance of an health practitioner.
Argan oil may cause allergy – This oil may be act as an allergen, especially for people who are prone to nut oil allergies. The cold pressing technique for extraction of this oil may lead the oil to have the presence of some proteins that cause allergies.
Argan oil, quite evidently, has chemopreventive properties. It can both prevent and delay cancer development, effectively.
The synergistic action of its various constituent is responsible for its efficacy in prevention of cancer. The anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and anti-proliferative actions of this oil compositely act to make this oil a great alternative to avoid cancer.
This oil is effective against many types of cancer, further strengthening its efficacy.
Regular consumption of argan oil along with some lifestyle changes, like avoiding tobacco, increasing physical activities, etc., can have a very strong chemopreventive implication.