Virgin olive oil (VOO) constitutes the main source of fat in the Mediterranean diet. VOO is rich in oleic acid, displaying health-promoting properties, but also contains minor bioactive components, especially phenolic compounds. Hydroxytyrosol (HT), the main polyphenol of olive oil, has been reported to be the most bioactive component. This review aims to compile the results of clinical, animal and cell culture studies evaluating the effects of HT on the features of Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) (body weight/adiposity, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and hyperglycemia/insulin resistance) and associated complications (oxidative stress and inflammation). HT was able to improve the lipid profile, glycaemia, and insulin sensitivity, and counteract oxidative and inflammatory processes. Experimental studies identified multiple molecular targets for HT conferring its beneficial effect on health in spite of its low bioavailability. However, rodent experiments and clinical trials with pure HT at biologically relevant concentrations are still lacking. Moreover, the roles of intestine and its gut microbiota have not been elucidated.
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