A study by the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) published in the journal Nature on November 10, 2021 opens up possibilities in exploring therapies that prevent cancer metastasis. Under the title “Dietary palmitic acid promotes a prometastatic memory via Schwann cells”, Dr. Gloria Pascual, Diana Domínguez and Marc Elosúa-Bayes opened up hope for people living with cancer. In this regard, NotiPress exclusively interviewed Antonio Barajas Andrade, a biochemical engineer with a master’s degree in human nutrition from the University of Morelia (Mexico) to understand the scope of the investigation.
The first thing that Barajas explained when interpreting the research: “because of the name [of the study], it invites us to relate it directly to palm oil, it is present, but it is not the only thing that palm oil has, nor is it the only place where palmitic acid is found. This fatty acid is also present in meats, dairy fats and vegetable oils such as soybean, sunflower, canola, coconut and even olive oil.
Through the progress of the study, considered in the early phase, it will be possible to know the maximum doses allowed to avoid an eventual outcome of carcinomas, Barajas added. The specialist indicated, it is common to start studies with exacerbated amounts of a component (in this case palmitic acid) and then evaluate tolerance against an ingredient without it becoming harmful to people. The also food expert in the public/private sector and professor at the Anahuac University on the Querétaro campus clarified that the study is not yet decisive due to its maturation phase.
For her part, the nutritionist Guadalupe Belén Galera Hernández, a specialist on the DoctorAnyTime platform, told NotiPress in an email interview, “the Western lifestyle is focused on foods rich in fats and carbohydrates, low consumption of vegetables, fruits and water natural, as well as ultra-processed foods accompanied by bad habits such as sedentary lifestyle and smoking”. These are important factors for the development of diseases such as obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus and cancer, said the expert.
Regarding the IRB investigation, Galera Hernández added, “it is important to recognize that it is a study carried out in an animal model and that it was only an exclusive palmitic acid diet.” In practical terms, “the exclusive consumption of fats is not correct, since there would be deficiencies of other macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals in humans,” she explained.
For Barajas, “responsible consumption will allow us to follow an eating plan, a diet, that provides the macronutrients to lead a healthy life.” In other words, “the abuse of this [palmitic acid] or any nutrient can lead to adverse conditions.” In this sense, nutrition professionals become relevant, since their role is to provide information to patients so that they can make better health decisions.
Likewise, it has been said that refined sugar should not be consumed because it promotes the proliferation of cancer, and does this mean that we are not going to consume sugar in our lives? asks Barajas. The answer is “no. Here the important thing is to know how sugar behaves in the body and that this allows to improve the conditions of people living with cancer”, she points out. Also, this leads to avoiding the spread of the disease due to lack of control or non-responsible consumption of certain nutrients.
Consulted by NotiPress, the Mexican Federation of Palm Oil (FEMEXPALMA) said that it was expectant in the advances of the investigations of the biomedical group.
Specialists agree on the research related to palmitic acid, there is still a way to go and the most important thing now is to avoid misinformation or generate an unnecessary alert to consumers. In such a case, the best way to understand the study and the possibilities that open up for the exploration of therapies that prevent metastasis, is as Pascual puts it: “This discovery opens new paths for research and the development of therapies aimed at specifically preventing cancer metastasis.