Studies by Juan Morales and Ricardo Lucas at the Institute de Investigaciones Quimicas, CSIC, Seville, Spain have proved that oxygen is an essential component for living organisms to survive. Although because it generates free radicals, it can be very toxic and cause cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, even aging and cancer.
The antioxidants in extra virgin olive oil, counter attack the damage oxygen can cause and they are gaining ground as therapeutic basis in the field of preventive medicine because they have the ability to stop the propagation of the free radicals during the oxidation process.
Extra virgin olive oil is very rich in poly-phenols, which are the biggest family of the antioxidants. Science has been intrigued by the poly-phenolic antioxidants, because they have interesting biological properties, like resveratrol, found in olive oil, grapes and red wine, and has anti-cancer and anti-cardiovascular effects.
Olives and olive oil also contain oleuropein that is phenolic acid and other molecules, as hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol that are anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
Hydroxytyrosol inhibits LDL oxidation and is the most potent antioxidant in olive oil, responsible for the free radical scavenging activity, that stops the oxidation process. Studies have proven that anti-oxidants in olive oil are very important protectors from oxidation.
When the hydroxytyrosol is compared to tyrosol, the free radical scavenging capacity of the hydroxytyrosol is much higher than the tyrosol’s. When another group of phenolic hydroxyl is present the radical scavenging capacity of the antioxidants, increases.