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Redox Rep. 1999;4(3):89-93.

Is ethanol an important antioxidant in alcoholic beverages associated with risk reduction of cataract and atherosclerosis?

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Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada.


It has been reported in the epidemiological literature that cataract, stroke, and atherosclerosis risk is reduced by 50% in people consuming one alcoholic drink per day. Peroxide has been implicated as a causative agent in cataractogenesis, and LDL oxidation appears to play a role in atherosclerosis. The antioxidant activity of alcohol was measured by: (i) use of a luminescent assay developed in our laboratory, confirmed as appropriate; (ii) electron spin resonance (ESR) spin-trapping; and (iii) copper-catalysed oxidation of LDL and VLDL from hamsters fed 6% ethanol in their drinking water. Ethanol reduced the luminescent counts/min from peroxide and superoxide. It significantly reduced the spin-trapped signal of hydroxyl radical, but not the superoxide signal. Other alcohols also showed large reductions in counts from hydrogen peroxide. Plasma from hamsters fed 6% ethanol had lower lipid peroxides and the oxidizability of LDL and VLDL was significantly reduced compared to controls. These data provide a possible explanation for the effect of beverages containing ethanol in the reduction of cataract and atherosclerosis risk observed in human population studies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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