The degradation of secoiridoid, tocopherol, and antioxidant activity in extra virgin olive oils (EVOOs) was studied during 8 months of storage in closed bottles in the dark, at 40 and 25 degrees C. Picual, Arbequina, Taggiasca, and Colombaia monovarietal EVOOs possessing quite different fatty acid and antioxidant contents were used. The secoiridoid aglycones, namely, the oleuropein and ligstroside derivatives, and alpha-tocopherol decreased following pseudo-first-order kinetics. In all EVOOs oleuropein derivatives were less stable than the corresponding ligstroside derivatives and alpha-tocopherol. Accordingly, overall antioxidant activity decreased following pseudo-first-order kinetics, with rate constants ranging from 0.85 x 10(-)(3) to 4.1 x 10(-)(3) days(-)(1) at 40 degrees C and from 0.8 x 10(-)(3) to 1.5 x 10(-)(3) days(-)(1) at 25 degrees C. According to both the antioxidant activity and the hydrolysis and oxidation indices established by EU regulation to assess EVOO quality, Colombaia oil was the least stable, followed by Taggiasca, Arbequina, and Picual oils. Despite antioxidant degradation, EVOOs with high antioxidant contents were still "excellent" after 240 days of storage at 40 degrees C. These data led to the conclusion that the beneficial properties of EVOOs due to antioxidant activity can be maintained throughout their commercial lives.