Hydroxytyrosol (HT) and its derivatives represent the minor components of Virgin Olive Oil (VOO) that are of great interest for their pharmacological properties and among the most widely researched natural antioxidant compounds. In this review, the occurrence and metabolic fate of HT and its precursors are presented prior to discussing its beneficial effects on health. Bioavailability studies show that the metabolites detected in plasma depend on the model used (animal or human), the HT source (simple molecule or complex precursors) and the dose administered. However, in all cases HT sulphate appears to be the most ubiquitous metabolite in biofluids and it seems probable that it is responsible to a great extent for HT biological effects. Epidemiological evidence of HT and its derivatives against such lifestyle-associated pathologies as cancer, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases is reviewed together with the newest perspectives on the mechanisms of action based on in-vitro and animal studies. According to the reviewed data, HT and its precursors could have the potential clinical use in cardiovascular diseases; more epidemiological data is needed to demonstrate their neurodegenerative diseases and cancer prevention.
Keywords: Cancer; cardiovascular disease; hydroxytyrosol; metabolism; neurodegeneration; signalling pathways..
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