Background and objective: Atherosclerosis is characterized by a chronic low-grade inflammatory process which can result in atherothrombosis and a number of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). It is believed to be caused by multiple processes that involve inflammation and immunity. Mediterranean Diet (MedD) has been discovered to possess anti-inflammatory properties and associated with a reduction in the CVD risk and mortality. Its main component, extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), is believed to be largely responsible for these effects and therefore, has been investigated in various studies. The present review article aims to summarize the available literature on the antiinflammatory and cardio-protective effects of EVOO.
Methods: A search based on the key concepts "olive oil", "atherosclerosis", "inflammation" and "cardiovascular disease" was performed to retrieve relevant studies and articles on the association between the consumption of EVOO and the levels of inflammatory biomarkers as well as CVD incidence and mortality from online databases; Pubmed, Embase and Cochrane Library.
Results: Consumption of EVOO is associated with a reduction in inflammatory biomarkers and molecules implicated in atherosclerosis as well as CVD incidence and mortality as well as other complications such as heart failure and atrial fibrillation. Moreover, these anti-inflammatory and cardioprotective effects of EVOO are mostly attributable to its high content of polyphenol molecules.
Conclusion: Currently available evidence supports the anti-inflammatory and cardio-protective roles of EVOO. However, there is limited amount of available randomized controlled trials especially lacking those investigating the use of EVOO as secondary prevention, heterogeneity of study design, limited generalization to wide population groups, and inability to determine the minimum intake of EVOO required to clinically achieve the anti-inflammatory and cardioprotective effects. Therefore, more highquality randomized controlled trials still need to be carried out to overcome these challenges to further assess the health benefits of EVOO consumption and potentially translate it into clinical practice as primary or secondary prevention of atherosclerosis-related conditions.
Keywords: Atherosclerosis; Mediterranean Diet; cardiovascular disease; extra virgin olive oil; inflammation; phenolic compounds.
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