Molecular Mechanisms Underlying the Effects of Olive Oil Triterpenic Acids in Obesity and Related Diseases

Nutrients. 2022 Apr 12;14(8):1606. doi: 10.3390/nu14081606.


Dietary components exert protective effects against obesity and related metabolic and cardiovascular disturbances by interfering with the molecular pathways leading to these pathologies. Dietary biomolecules are currently promising strategies to help in the management of obesity and metabolic syndrome, which are still unmet medical issues. Olive oil, a key component of the Mediterranean diet, provides an exceptional lipid matrix highly rich in bioactive molecules. Among them, the pentacyclic triterpenic acids (i.e., oleanolic acid) have gained clinical relevance in the last decade due to their wide range of biological actions, particularly in terms of vascular function, obesity and insulin resistance. Considering the promising effects of these triterpenic compounds as nutraceuticals and components of functional foods against obesity and associated complications, the aim of our review is to decipher and discuss the main molecular mechanisms underlying these effects driven by olive oil triterpenes, in particular by oleanolic acid. Special attention is paid to their signaling and targets related to glucose and insulin homeostasis, lipid metabolism, adiposity and cardiovascular dysfunction in obesity. Our study is aimed at providing a better understanding of the impact of dietary components of olive oil in the long-term management of obesity and metabolic syndrome in humans.

Keywords: adiposity; insulin resistance; obesity; oleanolic acid; olive oil; triterpenes; vascular diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet, Mediterranean*
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Syndrome* / drug therapy
  • Obesity / drug therapy
  • Oleanolic Acid* / pharmacology
  • Oleanolic Acid* / therapeutic use
  • Olive Oil / pharmacology


  • Olive Oil
  • Oleanolic Acid