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Toxicology. 2003 Jul 15;189(1-2):1-20.

Protection against ionizing radiation by antioxidant nutrients and phytochemicals.

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Office of Health Studies, US Department of Energy, EH-6/270 Corporate Square, 1000 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20585-0270, USA.


The potential of antioxidants to reduce the cellular damage induced by ionizing radiation has been studied in animal models for more than 50 years. The application of antioxidant radioprotectors to various human exposure situations has not been extensive although it is generally accepted that endogenous antioxidants, such as cellular non-protein thiols and antioxidant enzymes, provide some degree of protection. This review focuses on the radioprotective efficacy of naturally occurring antioxidants, specifically antioxidant nutrients and phytochemicals, and how they might influence various endpoints of radiation damage. Results from animal experiments indicate that antioxidant nutrients, such as vitamin E and selenium compounds, are protective against lethality and other radiation effects but to a lesser degree than most synthetic protectors. Some antioxidant nutrients and phytochemicals have the advantage of low toxicity although they are generally protective when administered at pharmacological doses. Naturally occurring antioxidants also may provide an extended window of protection against low-dose, low-dose-rate irradiation, including therapeutic potential when administered after irradiation. A number of phytochemicals, including caffeine, genistein, and melatonin, have multiple physiological effects, as well as antioxidant activity, which result in radioprotection in vivo. Many antioxidant nutrients and phytochemicals have antimutagenic properties, and their modulation of long-term radiation effects, such as cancer, needs further examination. In addition, further studies are required to determine the potential value of specific antioxidant nutrients and phytochemicals during radiotherapy for cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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