In this work, different commercial extra-virgin olive oils (EVOO) were subjected to in vitro gastrointestinal digestion and the changes in bioactive compounds were evaluated by ultra-highpressure liquid chromatography coupled with quadrupole-time-of-flight mass spectrometry, using untargeted metabolomics. As expected, raw EVOO samples were abundant in total sterols (on average: 3007.4 mg equivalents/kg) and tyrosol equivalents (on average: 334.1 mg equivalents/kg). However, the UHPLC-QTOF screening allowed us to annotate 310 compounds, with a large abundance of sterols (219 compounds), followed by polyphenols (67 compounds) and terpenoids. The in vitro gastrointestinal digestion was found to affect the phytochemical composition of the different EVOO samples. In particular, both unsupervised and supervised statistics depicted the modifications of the bioactive profile following gastric and pancreatic phases. Overall, the compounds which resulted as the most affected by the in vitro digestion were flavonoids (cyanidin and luteolin equivalents), whilst relatively high % bioaccessibility values were recorded for tyrosol equivalents during the pancreatic phase (on average, 66%). In this regard, oleuropein-aglycone (i.e., the major phenolic compound in EVOO) was converted to hydroxytyrosol, moving from an average value of 1.3 (prior to the in vitro digestion) up to 9.7 mg equivalents/kg during the pancreatic step. As proposed in the literature, the increase in hydroxytyrosol might be the result of the combined effect of lipase(s) activity and acidic conditions. Taken together, the present findings corroborate the suitability of untargeted metabolomics coupled to in vitro digestion methods to investigate the bioaccessibility of phenolic compounds. In this regard, a significant impact of in vitro gastrointestinal digestion on polyphenolic profiles has been detected, thus suggesting the need to account for actual bioaccessibility values rather than just considering the amounts in the raw commodity.
- tyrosol derivatives