Digestion and absorption of olive oil


  • Beatriz Bermúdez Cellular and Molecular Nutrition, Instituto de la Grasa (CSIC)
  • Yolanda M. Pacheco Cellular and Molecular Nutrition, Instituto de la Grasa (CSIC)
  • Sergio López Cellular and Molecular Nutrition, Instituto de la Grasa (CSIC)
  • Rocío Abia Cellular and Molecular Nutrition, Instituto de la Grasa (CSIC)
  • Francisco J.G. Muriana Cellular and Molecular Nutrition, Instituto de la Grasa (CSIC)




Olive oil, Monounsaturated fatty acids, Minor compounds, Gastric and intestinal digestion, Gastric and intestinal absorption, Mediterranean diet


Olive oil is a monounsaturated (oleic acid)-rich fat, mainly constituted by triglycerides (>98 %) and minor compounds. As other macronutrients, dietary triglyceride digestion and absorption are a complex processes involving enzyme activities and physicochemical changes. In humans, hydrolysis of olive oil triglycerides begins in the stomach where it is catalyzed by an acid-stable gastric lipase. Triglyceride hydrolysis continues in the duodenum, by the synergetic actions of gastric and colipase-dependent pancreatic lipases and bile secretion. Gastric lipolysis leads to the hydrolysis of 10-30 % of ingested triglycerides, generating mainly diglycerides (DG) and free fatty acids. This facilitates subsequent triglyceride hydrolysis by pancreatic lipase by allowing fat emulsification. Pancreatic lipase cleaves the sn-1 and sn-3 positions of triglycerides and/or DG obtaining sn-2 monoglycerides. Different lipid metabolites are quickly absorbed along the epithelial cells of the small intestine, acting olive oil as a supplier of oleic-acid-rich hydrocarbon skeletons for cellular synthesis of triglycerides and phospholipids. Absorption of mostly minor compounds of (extra virgin) olive oil takes place in the small intestine, as native or derivatives. Compared to diets rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, olive oil suppresses gastric acid secretion and is a potent releasing factor of cholecystokinin peptide, which consistently indicate that the consumption of olive oil might be beneficial in digestive diseases.


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How to Cite

Bermúdez B, Pacheco YM, López S, Abia R, Muriana FJ. Digestion and absorption of olive oil. Grasas aceites [Internet]. 2004Mar.30 [cited 2024Apr.14];55(1):1-10. Available from: https://grasasyaceites.revistas.csic.es/index.php/grasasyaceites/article/view/141




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