Antioxidants to abrogate free radicals: new insights to challenge currently held beliefs

Schloss, Janet M.; Vitetta, Luis
January 2014
Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine;2014, Vol. 26 Issue 1, p4
Academic Journal
Compounds found in foods, nutrients and herbs commonly defined as antioxidants have been posited to neutralise free radicals produced by cellular oxidation reactions in the hope of ameliorating symptoms of chronic diseases. It has been reported that the body can function effectively with low levels of free radicals but if there is an overload of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and/ or reactive nitrogen species (RNS) that there is an increased risk for heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases. However, physiologically, the idea of neutralising a free radical with an antioxidant is very much a chimera. Five decades of in vitro and in vivo investigations on antioxidants and free radicals with no proven mechanistic understanding has confused researchers, antioxidant compound manufacturers and the public. This commentary advances a biochemical understanding as to the antioxidant / free radical connection that runs counter to decades of research dogma. The notion that an over production of free radicals such as superoxide anions and hydrogen peroxide are deleterious to health by causing cellular damage is not proven. The increased risk for chronic diseases and the aging process due to an overload of intracellular free radicals is untenable and challenged. These compounds are required for normal cellular function. Furthermore, as an example, we cite vitamin C, the bastion of the antioxidant library of molecules, as anything but an antioxidant in vivo. Vitamin C is an essential co-enzyme and plays an oxido-reductase role in the hydroxylations of, for example, pro-collagen.


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