Abstract: Extra virgin olive oil is highly consumed and well known for its nutritional and health benefits. However, it is fatty food highly susceptible to lipid oxidation. The objective of this study was to evaluate the preserving effect of oregano (Origanum vulgare L. spp vulgare called “oregano compacto”) essential oil on physical and chemical properties in extra virgin olive oil during storage. Oregano essential oil composition was analyzed by GC-MS. This essential oil was added into extra virgin olive oil at 0.05%. The samples were stored in 3 different conditions: darkness, light exposure, and temperature (60 °C). Chemical indicators of lipid oxidation (peroxide value, p-anisidine value, conjugated dienes, free fatty acidity, and carotenoid and chlorophyll contents) were measured. High content in carvomenthol (22.52%), terpinolene (19.77%), thymol (13.51%), and γ-terpinene (10.30%) were detected in oregano essential oil. Olive oil samples without oregano essential oil stored at 60 °C and exposure at artificial light had the highest peroxide values during storage. Higher p-anisidine and K232 values after day 7 of storage were detected in temperature, darkness, and light exposure treatments. Light treatment was the main factor that degraded chlorophyll causing loss of color. The highest chlorophyll content (3.87 mg/kg) was observed in olive oil with essential oil at the end of storage. In general, olive oil samples added with oregano essential oil had lower peroxide, conjugated dienes, and p-anisidine values and higher chlorophyll and carotenoid contents during storage. Oregano essential oil retards lipid oxidation process in olive oil prolonging its shelf life.
Practical Application: Oregano essential oil was and is used with the purpose of flavoring and aromatizing food. This essential oil due to its composition has shown antioxidant activity. Synthetic antioxidants such as butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) are thought to be promoters of carcinogenesis. Extra virgin olive oil is widely consumed because of its nutritional benefits and sensory properties which are very important to be preserved in the product. In this study, the oregano essential oil showed remarkable antioxidant activity in olive oil. Therefore, this essential oil could be considered for the industry as natural antioxidant not only to be used in olive oil but also in other fatty food products to substitute synthetic ones.