The olive-oil-centered Mediterranean diet has been associated with extended life expectancy and a reduction in the risk of age-related degenerative diseases. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) itself has been proposed to promote a “successful aging”, being able to virtually modulate all the features of the aging process, because of its great monounsaturated fatty acids content and its minor bioactive compounds, the polyphenols above all. Polyphenols are mostly antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, able to modulate abnormal cellular signaling induced by pro-inflammatory stimuli and oxidative stress, as that related to NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf-2) and nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB), which have been identified as important modulators of age-related disorders and aging itself. This review summarizes existing literature about the interaction between EVOO polyphenols and NF-κB and Nrf-2 signaling pathways. Reported studies show the ability of EVOO phenolics, mainly hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol, to activate Nrf-2 signaling, inducing a cellular defense response and to prevent NF-κB activation, thus suppressing the induction of a pro-inflammatory phenotype. Literature data, although not exhaustive, indicate as a whole that EVOO polyphenols may significantly help to modulate the aging process, so tightly connected to oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.
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