The aim of the present systematic review was to synthesize data from randomized controlled trials investigating the effects of olive oil on markers of inflammation or endothelial function. Literature search in electronic databases Cochrane Trial Register, EMBASE, and MEDLINE was performed. Thirty studies enrolling 3106 participants fulfilled the selection criteria. Pooled effects of different interventions were assessed as mean difference using a random effects model. Olive oil interventions (with daily consumption ranging approximately between 1 mg and 50 mg) resulted in a significantly more pronounced decrease in C-reactive protein (mean difference: -0.64 mg/L, (95% confidence interval (CI) -0.96 to -0.31), p < 0.0001, n = 15 trials) and interleukin-6 (mean difference: -0.29 (95% CI -0.7 to -0.02), p < 0.04, n = 7 trials) as compared to controls, respectively. Values of flow-mediated dilatation (given as absolute percentage) were significantly more increased in individuals subjected to olive oil interventions (mean difference: 0.76% (95% CI 0.27 to 1.24), p < 0.002, n = 8 trials). These results provide evidence that olive oil might exert beneficial effects on endothelial function as well as markers of inflammation and endothelial function, thus representing a key ingredient contributing to the cardiovascular-protective effects of a Mediterranean diet. However, due to the heterogeneous study designs (e.g., olive oil given as a supplement or as part of dietary pattern, variations in control diets), a conservative interpretation of the results is necessary.
Keywords: C-reactive protein; Mediterranean diet; cardiovascular disease; flow-mediated dilatation; interleukin-6.