The increasing interest in the Mediterranean diet hinges on its healthy and anti-ageing properties. The composition of fatty acids, vitamins and polyphenols in olive oil, a key component of this diet, is considered a key feature of its healthy properties. Therefore, it is of significance that the Rod of Asclepius lying on a world map surrounded by olive tree branches has been chosen by the World Health Organization as a symbol of both peace and well-being. This review travels through most of the current and past research, recapitulating the biochemical and physiological correlations of the beneficial properties of olive tree (Olea europaea) polyphenols and their derivatives found in olive oil. The factors influencing the content and beneficial properties of olive oil polyphenols will also be taken into account together with their bioavailability. Finally, the data on the clinical and epidemiological relevance of olive oil and its polyphenols for longevity and against age- and lifestyle-associated pathologies such as cancer, cardiovascular, metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases are reviewed.
Keywords: Mediterranean diet; NASH; cancer; cardiovascular disease; hydroxytyrosol; metabolic syndrome; neurodegeneration; obesity; oleuropein; olive oil; polyphenols; type 2 diabetes.