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Beneficial effects of olive oil phenols on the aging process: Experimental evidence and possible mechanisms of action


Human studies indicate that consumption of olive oil is associated with decreased mortality, reduced cardiovascular risk and improved cognitive function in the elderly. Many of these benefits are thought to be due to the phenolic content of olive oil. In support of this, intervention studies in humans indicate that olive oil phenols protect blood lipids from oxidation and improve blood parameters of inflammation, hemostasis and vascular function, all risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The aim of this review is to evaluate the experimental evidence that olive oil phenols are beneficial to the aging process. Animal studies suggest that olive oil phenols have preventive actions on age-related cognitive and motor dysfunction, an important cause of disability in the elderly. Supporting mechanistic in vitro studies indicate that olive oil phenols may inhibit inflammatory pathways and associated proteins, induce pathways related to cell protection and survival, and modulate pathways related to energy metabolism similar to anti-aging substances. Furthermore, they can interact with beta-amyloid peptide and Tau protein to inhibit the formation of protein aggregates, a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. However, caution should be expressed in interpreting these in vitro data are as they are based on experiments carried out mainly using un-physiological concentrations of native olive phenols rather than phenolic metabolites. In conclusion, while in vivo data for the beneficial effects of olive oil phenols in aging are growing, a mechanistic explanation for these effects requires much additional research on the effects of metabolites at relevant concentrations.