The Mediterranean diet, rich in fruit, vegetables, grain, and vegetable oil (mainly olive oil) is correlated with a lower incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD). Natural antioxidants contained in the Mediterranean diet might also play a role in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, through inhibition of LDL oxidation. We tested this hypothesis "in vitro" by inducing LDL oxidation with copper sulphate and preincubating the samples with oleuropein, the bitter principle of olives, that is one of the major components of the polyphenolic fraction of olive oil. Oleuropein 10(-5) M effectively inhibited CuSO4-induced LDL oxidation, as assessed by various parameters. We demonstrate in this investigation that polyphenolic components of the Mediterranean diet interfere with biochemical events that are implicated in atherogenetic disease, thus proposing a new link between the Mediterranean diet and prevention of CHD.