Experimental and clinical evidence suggest that oxidative stress causes cellular damage, leading to functional alterations of the tissue. Free radicals may thus play an important role in the pathogenesis of a number of human diseases. Among pro-oxidant agents, oxidized LDL lead to the production of cytotoxic reactive species, e.g., lipoperoxides, causing tissue injury and various subsequent pathologies including intestinal diseases. Thus, to analyze the oxidative damage induced by oxidized LDL to intestinal mucosa, we evaluated morphological and functional changes induced in the human colon adenocarcinoma cell line, Caco-2. In addition, we examined the protective effects exerted by tyrosol, 2-(4-hydroxyphenyl)ethanol, the major phenolic compound present in olive oil. Caco-2 cell treatment (24 and/or 48 h) with oxidized LDL (0.2 g/L) resulted in cytostatic and cytotoxic effects characterized by a series of morphological and functional alterations: membrane damage, modifications of cytoskeleton network, microtubular disorganization, loss of cell-cell and cell-substrate contacts, cell detachment and cell death. The oxidized LDL-induced alterations in Caco-2 cells were almost completely prevented by tyrosol which was added 2 h before and present during the treatments. Our results suggest that some biophenols, such as those contained in olive oil, may counteract the reactive oxygen metabolite-mediated cellular damage and related diseases, by improving in vivo antioxidant defenses.