The Journal of nutrition

Olive oil phenols are absorbed in humans.

PMID 11880564


Animal and in vitro studies suggest that olive oil phenols are effective antioxidants. The most abundant phenols in olive oil are the nonpolar oleuropein- and ligstroside-aglycones and the polar hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol. The aim of this study was to gain more insight into the metabolism of those phenols in humans. We measured their absorption in eight healthy ileostomy subjects. We also measured urinary excretion in the ileostomy subjects and in 12 volunteers with a colon. Subjects consumed three different supplements containing 100 mg of olive oil phenols on separate days in random order. Ileostomy subjects consumed a supplement with mainly nonpolar phenols, one with mainly polar phenols and one with the parent compound oleuropein-glycoside. Subjects with a colon consumed a supplement without phenols (placebo) instead of the supplement with oleuropein-glycoside. Ileostomy effluent and urine were collected for 24 h after supplement intake. Tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol concentrations were low (< 4 mol/100 mol of intake) in the ileostomy effluent, and no aglycones were detected. We estimated that the apparent absorption of phenols was at least 55-66% of the ingested dose. Absorption was confirmed by the excretion of tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol in urine. In ileostomy subjects, 12 mol/100 mol and in subjects with a colon, 6 mol/100 mol of the phenols from the nonpolar supplement were recovered in urine as tyrosol or hydroxytyrosol. In both subject groups, 5--6 mol/100 mol of the phenols was recovered from the polar supplement. When ileostomy subjects were given oleuropein-glycoside, 16 mol/100 mol was recovered in 24-h urine, mainly in the form of hydroxytyrosol. Thus, humans absorb a large part of ingested olive oil phenols and absorbed olive oil phenols are extensively modified in the body.

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