Dietary oleic acid is inversely associated with pancreatic cancer - Data from food diaries in a cohort study

Pancreatology. 2018 Sep;18(6):655-660. doi: 10.1016/j.pan.2018.07.004. Epub 2018 Jul 10.


Background: Dietary oleic acid may prevent pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) by reducing hyperinsulinaemia which can otherwise promote DNA damage and tumour growth. Results from previous epidemiological studies investigating oleic acid are inconsistent. This study aims to clarify the relationship between dietary oleic acid intake and the risk of developing PDA using nutritional information from food diaries plus published serum biomarker data from HbA1c.

Methods: 23,658 participants, aged 40-74 years, were recruited into EPIC-Norfolk and completed 7-day food diaries which recorded; foods, brands and portion sizes to calculate nutrient intakes. Serum HbA1c was measured at recruitment in 11,147 participants (48.7% of cohort). Hazard ratios (HRs) for quintiles of dietary oleic acid intake and serum HbA1c were estimated using Cox regression. Additional analyses were made according to whether body mass index (BMI) was greater or less than 25 kg/m2 as this influences hyperinsulinaemia.

Results: 88 participants (55% women) developed PDA after a mean follow-up of 8.4 years (SD = 3.9) (mean age at diagnosis = 72.6 years, SD = 8.8). A decreased risk of PDA was associated with increased dietary oleic acid intake (highest vs lowest quintile, HR = 0.29, 95% CI = 0.10-0.81, P trend across quintiles = 0.011), with statistical significance maintained when BMI>25 kg/m2 but not if BMI<25 kg/m2. An elevated serum HbA1c was associated with increased risk of disease (highest vs lowest quintiles, HR = 6.32, 95% CI = 1.38-28.89, P for trend = 0.004).

Conclusions: The data supports a protective role of oleic acid against development of PDA in those with higher BMIs possibly through influencing hyperinsulinaemia. Oleic acid intake should be accurately measured in future aetiological studies.

Keywords: Food diaries; Glycosylated haemoglobin; Oleic acid; Pancreatic cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / epidemiology*
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / prevention & control*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diet
  • Diet Records
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Glycated Hemoglobin / analysis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oleic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Risk Factors


  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • Oleic Acid