Phenolic compounds are one of the main reasons behind the healthy properties of virgin olive oil (VOO). However, their daily intake from VOO is low compared with that obtained from other phenolic sources. Therefore, the intake of VOO enriched with its own phenolic compounds could be of interest to increase the daily dose of these beneficial compounds. To evaluate the effectiveness of enrichment on their bioavailability, the concentration of phenolic compounds and their metabolites in human plasma (0, 60, 120, 240 and 300 min) from thirteen healthy volunteers (seven men and six women, aged 25 and 69 years) was determined after the ingestion of a single dose (30 ml) of either enriched virgin olive oil (EVOO) (961·17 mg/kg oil) or control VOO (288·89 mg/kg oil) in a cross-over study. Compared with VOO, EVOO increased plasma concentration of the phenol metabolites, particularly hydroxytyrosol sulphate and vanillin sulphate (P < 0·05). After the consumption of VOO, the maximum concentration of these peaks was reached at 60 min, while EVOO shifted this maximum to 120 min. Despite these differences, the wide variability of results indicates that the absorption and metabolism of olive oil phenols are highly dependent on the individual.