Major phenolic compounds in olive oil: Metabolism and health effects

Kellie L. Tuck, Peter J. Hayball

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

559 Citations (Scopus)


It has been postulated that the components in olive oil in the Mediterranean diet, a diet which is largely vegetarian in nature, can contribute to the lower incidence of coronary heart disease and prostate and colon cancers. The Mediterranean diet includes the consumption of large amounts of olive oil. Olive oil is a source of at least 30 phenolic compounds. The major phenolic compounds in olive oil are oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol. Recently there has been a surge in the number of publications that has investigated their biological properties. The phenolic compounds present in olive oil are strong antioxidants and radical scavengers. Olive "waste water" also possesses compounds which are strong antioxidant and radical scavengers. Typically, hydroxytyrosol is a superior antioxidant and radical scavenger to oleuropein and tyrosol. Hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein have antimicrobial activity against ATTC bacterial strains and clinical bacterial strains. Recent syntheses of labeled and unlabelled hydroxytyrosol coupled with superior analytical techniques have enabled its absorption and metabolism to be studied. It has recently been found that hydroxytyosol is renally excreted unchanged and as the following metabolites as its glucuronide conjugate, sulfate conjugate, homovanillic acid, homovanillic alcohol, 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid and 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetaldehyde. Studies with tyrosol have shown that it is excreted unchanged and as its conjugates. This review summarizes the antioxidant abilities; the scavenging abilities and the biological fates of hydroxytyrosol, oleuropein and tyrosol which have been published in recent years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)636-644
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Nutritional Biochemistry
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Hydroxytyrosol
  • Mediterranean diet
  • Oleuropein
  • Olive oil
  • Phenolic compounds
  • Tyrosol

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