Background and purpose: Squalene, the main hydrocarbon in the unsaponifiable fraction of virgin olive oil, is involved in cholesterol synthesis and it has been reported to own antiatherosclerotic and antiesteatosic effects. However, the squalene's role on lipid plasma parameters and the influence of genotype on this effect need to be addressed.
Experimental approaches: Three male mouse models (wild-type, Apoa1- and Apoe- deficient) were fed chow semisynthetic diets enriched in squalene to provide a dose of 1 g/kg during 11 weeks. After this period, their plasma parameters and lipoprotein profiles were analyzed.
Key results: Squalene administration at a dose of 1 g/kg showed decreased reactive oxygen species in lipoprotein fractions independently of the animal background and caused an specific increase in high density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol levels, accompanied by an increase in phosphatidylcholine and paraoxonase 1 and no changes in apolipoproteins A1 and A4 in wild-type mice. In these mice, the cholesterol increase was due to its esterified form and associated with an increased hepatic expression of Lcat. These effects were not observed in absence of apolipoprotein A1. The increases in HDL- paraoxonase 1 were translated into decreased plasma malondialdehyde levels depending on the presence of Apolipoprotein A1.
Conclusions and implications: Dietary squalene promotes changes in HDL- cholesterol and paraoxonase 1 and decreases reactive oxygen species in lipoproteins and plasma malondialdehyde levels, providing new benefits of its intake that might contribute to explain the properties of virgin olive oil, although the phenotype related to apolipoproteins A1 and E may be particularly relevant.