Coronary artery disease (CAD) is responsible for more than 7 million deaths worldwide. In the early stages of the development of atherosclerotic plaques, cardiovascular risk factors stimulate vascular endothelial cells, initiating an inflammatory process, fundamental in the pathogenesis of CAD. The inclusion of potentially cardioprotective foods, such as olive oil, to the diet, may aid in the control of these risk factors, and in the reduction of cytokines and inflammatory markers. The present review aims to address the interaction between phenolic compounds present in olive oil, and inflammation, in the prevention and treatment of CAD. In vitro and in vivo studies suggest that phenolic compounds, such as hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol, and their secoiridoid derivatives, may reduce the expression of adhesion molecules and consequent migration of immune cells, modify the signaling cascade and the transcription network (blocking the signal and expression of the nuclear factor kappa B), inhibit the action of enzymes responsible for the production of eicosanoids, and consequently, decrease circulating levels of inflammatory markers. Daily consumption of olive oil seems to modulate cytokines and inflammatory markers related to CAD in individuals at risk for cardiovascular diseases. However, clinical studies that have evaluated the effects of olive oil and its phenolic compounds on individuals with CAD are still scarce.
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