Waste remaining after the production of olive oil (olive pomace) is known to contain significant amounts of phenolic compounds that exert different types of biological activities, primarily acting as antioxidants. In this work, a sustainable approach that combines ultrasound-assisted extraction with food-grade solvents and encapsulation with different types of cyclodextrins was used to prepare olive pomace-based polyphenol rich extracts that were tested as antioxidants in various chemical, food, and biological model systems. Encapsulation with cyclodextrins had a significant positive impact on the chemical composition of obtained extracts and it positively affected their antioxidant activity. Observed effects can be explained by an increased content of polyphenols in the formulations, specific physical properties of encapsulated compounds improving their antioxidant activity in complex food/physiological environment, and enhanced interaction with natural substrates. Depending on the applied model, the tested samples showed significant antioxidant protection in the concentration range 0.1–3%. Among the investigated cyclodextrins, hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin and randomly methylated-β-cyclodextrin encapsulated extracts showed particularly good antioxidant activity and were especially potent in oil-in-water emulsion systems (1242 mg/g and 1422 mg/g of Trolox equivalents, respectively), showing significantly higher antioxidant activity than Trolox (reference antioxidant). In other models, they provided antioxidant protection comparable to commonly used synthetic antioxidants at concentration levels of 2–3%.
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