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FASEB J. 1987 Dec;1(6):441-5.

Free radical tissue damage: protective role of antioxidant nutrients.

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Clinical Nutrition, Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., Nutley, New Jersey 07110.


Highly reactive molecules called free radicals can cause tissue damage by reacting with polyunsaturated fatty acids in cellular membranes, nucleotides in DNA, and critical sulfhydryl bonds in proteins. Free radicals can originate endogenously from normal metabolic reactions or exogenously as components of tobacco smoke and air pollutants and indirectly through the metabolism of certain solvents, drugs, and pesticides as well as through exposure to radiation. There is some evidence that free radical damage contributes to the etiology of many chronic health problems such as emphysema, cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, cataracts, and cancer. Defenses against free radical damage include tocopherol (vitamin E), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), beta-carotene, glutathione, uric acid, bilirubin, and several metalloenzymes including glutathione peroxidase (selenium), catalase (iron), and superoxide dismutase (copper, zinc, manganese) and proteins such as ceruloplasmin (copper). The extent of tissue damage is the result of the balance between the free radicals generated and the antioxidant protective defense system. Several dietary micronutrients contribute greatly to the protective system. Based on the growing interest in free radical biology and the lack of effective therapies for many of the chronic diseases, the usefulness of essential, safe nutrients in protecting against the adverse effects of oxidative injury warrants further study.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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