Background: Virgin argan oil is of interest in cardiovascular risk prevention due to its fat composition and antioxidant compounds.
Aims: We investigated with Moroccan subjects the effect of regular virgin argan oil consumption on lipid profile and antioxidant status and the in vitro effect of argan oil minor compounds (tocopherols, sterols and polyphenols) on LDL peroxidation.
Design: Healthy subjects (20 men, 76 women) were studied. Sixty-two were regular consumers of argan oil and 34 were non-consumers.
Methods: Fasting plasma lipids, antioxidant vitamins and LDL oxidation susceptibility were analyzed. In vitro LDL oxidation by phenolic and apolar compounds of virgin argan oil were performed.
Results: Diet composition of argan oil consumers has a higher significant content of polyunsaturated fatty acids than that of non-consumers (8.8 +/- 1.0 vs. 6.6 +/- 0.9 g, P < 0.05). Subjects consuming argan oil have lower levels of plasma LDL cholesterol (12.7%, P < 0.05) and Lp(a) (25.3%, P < 0.05) compared with the non-consumers. In argan oil consumers, plasma lipoperoxides were lower (58.3%, P < 0.01) and molar ratio alpha-tocopherol/total cholesterol (21.6%, P < 0.05) and alpha-tocopherol concentration (13.4%, P < 0.05) were higher compared with the non-consumers group. In spite of higher levels of plasma antioxidant and lower levels of lipoperoxides in argan oil consumers, LDL oxidation susceptibility remained fairly similar. A strong positive correlation was observed between increasing phenolic extract, sterol and tocopherol concentrations and the LDL-Lag phase (P < 0.05).
Conclusions: Our findings suggest for the first time that regular consumption of virgin argan oil induces a lowering of LDL cholesterol and has antioxidant properties. This oil offers an additional natural food to reducing cardiovascular risk.