The aim of the study was to assess whether benefits associated with the traditional Mediterranean diet (TMD) and virgin olive oil (VOO) consumption could be mediated through changes in the expression of atherosclerosis-related genes. A randomized, parallel, controlled clinical trial in healthy volunteers (n=90) aged 20 to 50 yr was performed. Three-month intervention groups were as follows: 1) TMD with VOO (TMD+VOO), 2) TMD with washed virgin olive oil (TMD+WOO), and 3) control with participants’ habitual diet. WOO was similar to VOO, but with a lower polyphenol content (55 vs. 328 mg/kg, respectively). TMD consumption decreased plasma oxidative and inflammatory status and the gene expression related with both inflammation [INF-gamma (INFgamma), Rho GTPase-activating protein15 (ARHGAP15), and interleukin-7 receptor (IL7R)] and oxidative stress [adrenergic beta(2)-receptor (ADRB2) and polymerase (DNA-directed) kappa (POLK)] in peripheral blood mononuclear cells. All effects, with the exception of the decrease in POLK expression, were particularly observed when VOO, rich in polyphenols, was present in the TMD dietary pattern. Our results indicate a significant role of olive oil polyphenols in the down-regulation of proatherogenic genes in the context of a TMD. In addition, the benefits associated with a TMD and olive oil polyphenol consumption on cardiovascular risk can be mediated through nutrigenomic effects.
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