Williams Cancer Institute


Studies have reported that a diet based on palmitic acid, which is found in palm oil commonly used in fried foods, chocolate, cereals, and more, makes tumor cells even more aggressive, producing a greater capacity for metastasis in cancer patients.

Studies have shown that palm oil is a saturated fat of vegetable origin which is already harmful to humans because these fats go directly to the liver, creating bad cholesterol. Scientists from the Biomedical Research Institute (IRB) in Barcelona led by an ICREA member and Dr. Salvador Aznar-Benitah, on 11/12/2021, have described the mechanism by which a diet rich in palmitic acid makes tumor cells more aggressive and with a greater ability to make metastasis.

It is known that for a tumor cell to make metastasis, it must first leave the original tumor and enter the bloodstream or lymphatic vessels to reach another vital organ and live there, causing further damage to cancer patients and accelerating their death even further.

The worst part about palm oil is not the product itself but the way it is processed due to its high temperatures, which produces chemical contaminants that are toxic to the health of a person with cancer. This causes modifications in the genome of metastatic cells, known as epigenetic modifications, which are permanent, making these cells more aggressive. This process is called a stable memory.

Unfortunately, palmitic acid is found in many products that we consume daily and is harmful to cancer patients as it promotes metastasis in the body. However, despite this, it is essential in our daily diet, the problem occurs when we abuse its consumption.

These results reveal that a diet rich in palm oil would be harmful to the development of cancer, even in its early stage where the primary tumor has not yet been detected. For this reason, its consumption should be reduced as much as possible and any excess should be avoided.

Reference: Pascual, G. a.-B. (2021). Dietary palmitic acid promotes a prometastatic memory via Schwann cells. Nature, 485-490.

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