The interaction of four phenolic acids, representative of three chemical groups present in human diet, with peroxyl radicals was studied in vitro in a low density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation model. The controlled oxidation of LDL was initiated by free radicals generated from a hydrophilic azo initiator and followed by monitoring the oxygen consumption and the fluorescence quenching of cis-parinaric acid previously incorporated into LDL. The hydroxycinnamic acid derivatives, chlorogenic and caffeic acids, have high stoichiometric numbers and reactivity with peroxyl radicals as compared with trolox, the water-soluble analogue of vitamin E, whereas ellagic acid (a tannic compound) compares with trolox effects. Protocatechuic acid (a hydroxybenzoic acid derivative) exhibits a complex reaction with peroxyl radicals, as indicated by UV spectroscopy, resulting in undefined inhibition periods of LDL oxidation and low reactivity with peroxyl radicals. Presumably, secondary radicals of these compounds are unable to initiate LDL oxidation. The antioxidant activity of the various phenolic compounds is discussed in terms of structure-activity relationships.