This review compiles recently published scientific reports on the bioactive compounds present in virgin argan oil along with their possible beneficial effects on human health, which could justify consideration of this oil as a new functional food. Virgin argan oil is characterized by high levels of linoleic and oleic acids, tocopherols (especially γ-tocopherol), and minor compounds such as sterols, carotenoids, and squalene. The total antioxidant capacity of virgin argan oil is higher than that of other vegetable oils. Recent studies suggest that this edible oil, as a functional food, may play a role in disease prevention. For example, some authors have found it to have hypolipidemic, hypocholesterolemic, hypoglycemic, and antihypertensive effects as well as a possible role in cancer prevention. This review demonstrates the need for further studies in order to fully characterize argan oil from bromatological, nutritional, culinary, and technological perspectives. In particular, the scarcity of clinical data hampers relevant conclusions from being drawn regarding the therapeutic effects of virgin argan oil.
© 2012 International Life Sciences Institute.