Inclusion of biophenols in traditional foods transforms them into functional foods that may help to decrease CVD risk. The aim of the present study was to determine whether the consumption of hydroxytyrosol-enriched sunflower oil (HSO) improves certain CVD biomarker values. A total of twenty-two healthy volunteers participated in a cross-over study involving two 3-week periods, separated by a 2-week washout period, in which volunteers consumed 10–15 g/d of either HSO (45–50 mg/d of hydroxytyrosol) or non-enriched (control) sunflower oil. Total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, arylesterase activity, oxidised LDL and soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule (sVCAM-1) levels were measured in the plasma obtained at the beginning and at the end of each treatment period. The HSO group displayed a significantly higher level (P < 0·01) of arylesterase activity and significantly lower levels of oxidised LDL and sVCAM-1 (both P < 0·05) than the control group. These results suggest that HSO may help prevent CVD.