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Molecules. 2007 Aug 6;12(8):1679-719.

Phenolic molecules in virgin olive oils: a survey of their sensory properties, health effects, antioxidant activity and analytical methods. An overview of the last decade.

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  • 1Department of Food Science, University of Bologna. P.zza Goidanich 60, I-47023 Cesena (FC), Italy.


Among vegetable oils, virgin olive oil (VOO) has nutritional and sensory characteristics that to make it unique and a basic component of the Mediterranean diet. The importance of VOO is mainly attributed both to its high content of oleic acid a balanced contribution quantity of polyunsaturated fatty acids and its richness in phenolic compounds, which act as natural antioxidants and may contribute to the prevention of several human diseases. The polar phenolic compounds of VOO belong to different classes: phenolic acids, phenyl ethyl alcohols, hydroxy-isochromans, flavonoids, lignans and secoiridoids. This latter family of compounds is characteristic of Oleaceae plants and secoiridoids are the main compounds of the phenolic fraction. Many agronomical and technological factors can affect the presence of phenols in VOO. Its shelf life is higher than other vegetable oils, mainly due to the presence of phenolic molecules having a catechol group, such as hydroxytyrosol and its secoiridoid derivatives. Several assays have been used to establish the antioxidant activity of these isolated phenolic compounds. Typical sensory gustative properties of VOO, such as bitterness and pungency, have been attributed to secoiridoid molecules. Considering the importance of the phenolic fraction of VOO, high performance analytical methods have been developed to characterize its complex phenolic pattern. The aim of this review is to realize a survey on phenolic compounds of virgin olive oils bearing in mind their chemical-analytical, healthy and sensory aspects. In particular, starting from the basic studies, the results of researches developed in the last ten years will be focused.

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