Determination of oleanolic acid in human plasma and its association with olive oil intake in healthy Spanish adults within the EPIC Spain cohort study

Mol Nutr Food Res. 2017 Aug;61(8). doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201600927. Epub 2017 Mar 20.


Scope: Oleanolic acid (OA) is an important triterpenic compound found in olive oil, however little is known about its concentrations in human plasma. We aimed to determine plasma OA levels in a healthy Spanish population and compare them with estimates of dietary olive oil intake.

Methods and results: The final study sample included 141 individuals randomly selected from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Spanish cohort. Dietary olive oil intake was estimated using validated dietary history questionnaires. OA concentrations were determined in plasma (from the participants' stored blood samples) using a HPLC-MS method. Correlation coefficients between OA and olive oil intake were calculated, adjusting for center; sex; age; consumption of olives, apples, grapes, and red wine; and fasting state. The mean OA concentration in olive oil nonconsumers was 0.72 ng/mL (SD 0.82), while in the high olive oil intake group it was 1.32 ng/mL (SD 1.14). The fully adjusted partial Spearman correlations coefficients reached 0.36 (p-value < 0.001) overall, varying minimally by sex and fasting state.

Conclusion: This is the first study providing steady-state concentrations of triterpenes in humans. The results show that there was low-to-moderate correlation between OA concentrations and olive oil intake in this population.

Keywords: Biomarker; EPIC cohort study; Oleanolic acid; Olive oil.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Oleanolic Acid / blood*
  • Olive Oil / pharmacology*
  • Spain


  • Olive Oil
  • Oleanolic Acid