The Mediterranean diet has been proven to be highly effective in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Paraoxonase 1 (PON1) has been implicated in the development of those conditions, especially atherosclerosis. The present work describes a systematic review of current evidence supporting the influence of Mediterranean diet and its constituents on this enzyme. Despite the differential response of some genetic polymorphisms, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to exert a protective action on this enzyme. Extra virgin olive oil, the main source of fat, has been particularly effective in increasing PON1 activity, an action that could be due to low saturated fatty acid intake, oleic acid enrichment of phospholipids present in high-density lipoproteins that favor the activity, and increasing hepatic PON1 mRNA and protein expressions induced by minor components present in this oil. Other Mediterranean diet constituents, such as nuts, fruits and vegetables, have been effective in modulating the activity of the enzyme, pomegranate and its compounds being the best characterized items. Ongoing research on compounds isolated from all these natural products, mainly phenolic compounds and carotenoids, indicates that some of them are particularly effective, and this may enhance the use of nutraceuticals and functional foods capable of potentiating PON1 activity.
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