Biogenesis of Olive Oil Aroma

  • Juan Sánchez
  • Joaquín J. Salas


Contrary to other vegetable oils, virgin olive oil is prepared from fresh olives by means of physical procedures carried out under mild conditions (chapter 2), thus resulting in a fruit juice highly priced for its delicate flavour. As described in chapter 12, the aroma of virgin olive oil is formed by a complex mixture of volatile compounds, including aldehydes, alcohols, ketones, hydrocarbons, and esters, which can be analyzed and quantified by gas chromatography—mass spectrometry (GC-MS) (Morales et al. 1995; Olías et al. 1980). Interestingly, among these compounds, C6 aldehydes (hexanal, 3(Z)-hexenal and 2(E)-hexenal), alcohols (hexanol, 3(Z)-hexenol and 2(E)-hexenol), and their acetyl esters (hexylacetate and 3(Z)-hexenyl acetate), constitute 60–80% of total volatile compounds in all of the different oils (from various Spanish and Italian cultivars) analyzed so far (Morales et al. 1995; Olías et al. 1980; Ranalli & De Mattia 1997), with 2(E)-hexenal being the most prominent component. These C6 volatile compounds, which are found in the aroma of many other vegetable products, are responsible for the so-called green notes characteristic of green leaves. It has been established for other plant species that all of those volatile compounds are formed from polyunsaturated fatty acids through a cascade of biochemical reactions collectively known as the lipoxygenase pathway. This biochemical pathway, which is induced in higher plants upon disruption of tissues, involves a series of enzymes that oxidize (lipoxygenase) and cleave (hydroperoxide lyase) polyunsaturated fatty acids to yield aldehydes, which are subsequently reduced to alcohols (alcohol dehydrogenases) and esterified to produce esters (alcohol acyltransferase).


Linolenic Acid Volatile Compound Lipoxygenase Pathway Fatty Acid Hydroperoxide Hydroperoxide Lyase 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan Sánchez
  • Joaquín J. Salas

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