Adding plenty of olive oil to diet could protect you from cancer, suggests a new study.

Olive oil contains a number of compounds, called phenols, which are believed to act as powerful antioxidants.

Scientists led by Henrik Poulsen at the Copenhagen University Hospital looked at 182 healthy men aged between 20 and 60 from five European countries.

They found that those who had 25 millilitres of olive oil per day had reduced levels of a substance, which indicates cell damage, according to the online edition of BBC News.

The scientists added either virgin, common or refined olive oil to their diets over two weeks. At the end of the study, scientists measured levels of the substance, which indicates oxidative damage to cells, called 8oxodG, in the men's urine.









Oxidative damage is a process whereby the metabolic balance of a cell is disrupted by exposure to substances that result in the accumulation of free-radicals, which can then damage the cell.

The men were found to have around 13 percent less 8oxodG compared with their levels at the beginning of the study, the researchers write in the FASEB journal.

"These data may explain why many cancer rates are higher in northern Europe than the south, where olive oil is a major part of the diet," the scientists said.

"Although this study suggests that olive oil can reduce DNA damage that could lead to the development of cancer, more long-term research is needed to confirm these effects," Anthea Martin, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said.