Oxidation of low density lipoproteins maybe a factor in the development of atherosclerosis. The Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, and oils, mainly olive oil, has been suggested to reduce the incidence of coronary heart disease, because of its low saturated and high monounsaturated fatty acids content. It is also possible that the natural antioxidants in the oil help to prevent lipid oxidation, e.g. that of low density lipoproteins, thus retarding the formation of atherosclerotic plaques. First-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil contains appreciable amounts of polyphenolic compounds that prevent its autoxidation and are responsible for its high stability. We tested these compounds on low density lipoprotein oxidation and found an inhibitory effect, at low concentrations, on various indexes of lipid oxidation (vitamin E content, formation of thiobarbituric acid-reacting substances, lipid peroxides, levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, protein modification, conjugated diene formation). Our data suggest that natural antioxidants could play a role in inhibiting the formation of cytotoxic products such as lipid peroxides thus retarding the onset of the atherosclerotic damage.